Food & Wine (May 2016)
One of the best things about traveling is discovering new foods and then trying to recreate them in your kitchen back home. (Like when we came back from Argentina and started barreling our own Malbec. Just kidding.)
On our recent trip to Japan, one of the meals we didn't tell you about was tonkatsu, Japanese breaded pork cutlets. We had these a couple times in Tokyo, most memorably at a restaurant that's famous for its tonkatsu, Maisen.
The tonkatsu at Maisen was really tasty: Crispy-fried golden-brown strips of sweet, juicy pork, served with hot mustard and a lip-smacking Japanese barbecue sauce.
When we got home and saw this Andrew Zimmern recipe for tonkatsu in the May issue of Food & Wine, we knew we wanted to try it for ourselves.
This is one of those dishes that might seem foreign or exotic until you look a little more closely: Pork chops, pounded thin, dipped in egg and doused in breadcrumbs. Then fried. And served with steak sauce.
Honestly, you could just as easily call this recipe "Country-Fried Pork Chops with Barbecue Sauce."
That's not a knock -- this tonkatsu is delicious! But in terms of prep and ingredients, it's all very familiar to American cooks.
Well, there's one exception: The condiments.
Japanese mustard is hotter than Western-style mustard; the Japanese variation doesn't have vinegar, so it's less tangy but more potent.
And let's talk about that tonkatsu sauce. It's an deliciously sweet, savory, spicy barbecue sauce -- something like a thicker, sweeter Worcestershire. We got some Bull Dog-brand tonkatsu sauce at our neighborhood Japanese market (which we are always so grateful to have close by).
The tonkatsu sauce is addictively tasty. But the more we tasted it, the more familiar it seemed.
It was reminding us of something, but what? Something neither of us had tasted in a long time. Something sweet and savory and just a little smoky...
What was it?
It' tastes just like A1 steak sauce. Like literally, 100 percent, A1.
It made us want to go out and buy some A1 to do a comparative taste-test. Maybe our memory of what A1 tastes like isn't accurate. But we bet we'd have a hard time telling these two apart in a blind test.
Anyway, you should make this tonkatsu. It hits all the right tasty notes -- even if it is fried pork cutlets with barbecue sauce...
Have you ever tried tonkatsu? Can you back us up -- or correct us -- on the flavor of the sauce? Let us know in the comments!
Active time: 30 mins
Four 6- to 7-ounce boneless pork loin chops, pounded 1/2 inch thick
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups panko
Canola oil, for frying
3 tablespoons Japanese mustard powder (see Note) or Colman’s mustard powder
1/2 pound green cabbage, thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (4 cups)
Tonkatsu sauce (see Note) and lemon wedges, for serving
Using kitchen shears, score the fat at the edges of the chops at 1-inch intervals, about 1/4 inch deep.
Put the flour, eggs and panko in 3 separate shallow bowls. Season the flour with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper and coat them with flour, tapping off the excess. Dip the cutlets in the beaten eggs and then in the panko, pressing to help the panko adhere.
In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of oil to 360°. Fry 2 pork cutlets over moderate heat, turning once, until golden brown and white throughout, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Transfer to a cutting board and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining cutlets.
In a small bowl, whisk the mustard powder with 3 tablespoons of water until smooth.
Slice the tonkatsu into 3/4-inch strips and transfer to plates. Serve with the cabbage, Japanese mustard, tonkatsu sauce and lemon wedges.
Japanese mustard, which you make by combining equal parts Japanese mustard powder and water, is spicier and more pungent than most other prepared mustards. Tonkatsu sauce is available at Asian markets and from amazon.com.