4.129 Tonkatsu [with recipe]

-Cycle 4, Item 129-
14 (Tue) April 2013



by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic and Ian

Here's my recipe for tonkatsu (see generally 1.302 Tonkatsu).  While I've made the dish for years (see most recently (4.107 Tonkatsu with Shredded Cabbage in Ketchup & Mayo), always improvised, I finally got around to measuring out the amounts, if only to prevent waste.

CMA re authenticity.  As mentioned before, tonkatsu is essentially the same in its Korean and Japanese forms.  The most obvious difference may be in the respective thicknesses of the pork cutlet and the sizes of the bread crumbs in the coating--Korean = less than 1 cm + fine crumbs vs. Japanese = 1-2 cm + fluffy panko crumbs--but that's not always the case either way.  Although ostensibly Korean restaurants and pubs still do tonkatsu in the former style (see for example supplemental photo at 3.110 Wonjo Kim Bap), any establishment purporting to be Japanese will nowadays likely serve the latter (see for example 3.228 Tonkatsu).  Conversely, most Japanese home recipes that I've seen don't even mention panko.  Come to think of it, I learned to make tonkatsu from a Japanese friend in college, who used pre-made bread crumbs from a box.  Furthermore, he showed me how to pound the cutlet thin with a mallet, both to tenderize the meat and to quicken the cooking time--the way that his mother had taught him back in Tokyo.  In other words, it all seems to depend on context, rather than country.

This recipe is very similar to my recipe for schnitzel (see 1.002 Pork Schnitzel), differing only in the composition/consistency of the bread crumbs and the type of fat used in the cooking.

- - - -

Recipe for Tonkatsu
(serves 2-4)

Loin is the ideal cut for this dish because it's lean, and the circular shape is easier to work with. 

400 g pork loin
250 g white bread (about 5 cups coarse bread crumbs)
2 eggs
1 tsp rice vinegar (any clear acid will do, such as lemon juice)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups canola oil (any light oil will do, but not extra virgin olive oil)

Obviously, the initial cut will determine how large in diameter the patty will ultimately be after it's pounded flat; for smaller patties (e.g., to be used in a tonkatsu sandwich), slice the meat about 1/2-cm thick to begin with.

1.  Slice the meat into 6 patties each about 1-cm thick (tip: placing the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes will make the meat firm up and easier to slice).

I use a flat stone and cover the meat with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent sticking.

2.  Pound each patty down to about 1/4-cm thick (about as thin as it can get without tearing).

The acid, which provides an indiscernible yet unmistakable lightness to each bite, is the key to this recipe. 

3.  Beat the eggs thoroughly and combine with the vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then pour the mix into a shallow dish.

Anticipating that I'll need bread crumbs for dishes like tonkatsu, I cut off the crusts of bread whenever I make sandwiches for the kid and collect them in the freezer, along with the end pieces; someday, I'll do a taste test to determine whether such crust-heavy crumbs differ much from whole-piece crumbs--in fact, reader Gustaf commented that my tonkatsu looked darker than his.

4.  Working in batches, tear/chop the bread into small pieces then pulse the pieces in a food processor until they become chunky crumbs, then separate the crumbs into two bowls (one preferably wide and high).

5.  Dredge a patty in the flour and shake off the excess.

6.  Dip the patty in the egg wash on both sides.

7.  Place the patty on the crumbs in one bowl, sprinkle additional crumbs from the other bowl on top of the patty, then press down to get the crumbs stuck to the egg wash--the entire patty should be coated in crumbs, as many as possible.   

Of my own design, this two-bowl procedure isn't strictly necessary, but I find that it facilitates the process, makes less of a mess, and leaves any leftover bread crumbs in the second bowl uncontaminated for later use.  

8.  Transfer the patty carefully to a plate.

9.  Repeat steps 5-8 with the remaining patties, piling them on top of one another.    

10.  Put the dish in the refrigerator for at least one hour, up to a couple days, to allow the coating to set.

11.  Just prior to cooking, remove the dish from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes to bring the patties back to room temperature.

12.  Over low heat, heat about 1 cup of oil in a wok (or high-sided skillet).

The oil, the amount depending on the size of the vessel, should be enough just to cover one side of the patty without submerging it completely.

13.  Place one patty in the oil--at the right temperature, it should immediately begin to bubble casually but not sizzle furiously--and cook for 1 minute, flip and cook for 1 minute, flip and cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook for 30 seconds.

After the 1st flip (1:00 mark); whereas tonkatsu is traditionally deep-fried, I find that this shallow fry makes it easier to regulate the cooking temperature and saves on the oil.

After the 3rd flip (2:30 mark); exposing each side to air on alternating flips makes the crust crispier.

14.  Remove the patty from the oil and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel.

I keep a pan or heat-proof bowl on the side and pour the oil back and forth through a sieve.

15.  Dredge any crumbs at the bottom of the wok.

16.  Repeat steps 13-15 with the remaining patties, placing them side by side on the paper towel.

17.  After every two patties, add an additional 1/2 cup of oil.  

18.  Let the patties rest for at least 5 minutes (if cut into too soon, the still-circulating internal steam will make the coating fall off the meat).  

19.  Serve with tonkatsu sauce (I always use the bottled stuff (see generally 3.121 Tonkatsu + Taste Test: Tonkatsu Sauces), but I'll have to come up with a recipe for my own someday--not today).   

Here, with cauliflower-tomato-cucumber salad in sesame dressing and miso soup.



    I have to try to follow this recipe the next time I attempt making donkatsu

  2. be sure to take photos...