Before 1872, eating meat was taboo in Japan, banned by a 1000-year Buddhist edict. That changed when American warships docked at the port of Yokohama. The military started serving soldiers western foods, Western-style restaurants began opening, and as chefs adapted these ingredients to Japanese tastes, a new comfort cuisine evolved.
Chef Kida Motojiro invented tonkatsu in 1899, when he dipped a piece of pork in panko bread crumbs and deep fried the combination like tempura. The dish has been a classic ever since.
To simplify making tonkatsu at home, Melissa Clark of the New York Times endorses pan-frying (like you would a schnitzel) since deep-frying is messy and uses a lot of oil.
Plated’s Pork Tonkatsu, shipping in July, substitutes the cabbage with mizuna, a peppery Japanese mustard green, and the sauce with a tangy yuzu cherry salsa, reminiscent of yuzu kosho.
Profoundly flavorful and easy to cook, tonkatsu is a simple and soulful dish to add to your dinner repertoire. Here’s how you can make it at home:
Dredge quarter pound pork fillets, each about ¾ of an inch thick, in egg, then flour, and repeat. Dip in panko bread crumbs, pressing the flakes into the fillet to maximize the number of flakes and keep them attached. Fry in an inch of 340-degree vegetable oil for about four minutes, flipping once, until the fillets are golden. Serve on a bed of shredded cabbage and top with tonkatsu sauce.*
*Bulldog is the standard brand, like Heintz to ketchup. You can buy this at some grocery stores or most Asian markets. But if you feel like making some at home, try Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s simple variation, Miso Tonkatsu (it makes 2 cups):
¼ cup sake
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ Hatcho miso or red miso
2 tablespoons ground toasted sesame
Add the sake, mirin, water, and sugar to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the miso. Use a whisk to mix together the ingredients while they simmer. Remove from heat, add the ground sesame, and whisk until smooth. Allow the sauce to come to room temperature and serve.
(Image: Japanese Cooking 101)