"Tonkatsu" is a blend of the Japanese word for "pork" (ton) and the Japanese version of the English word "cutlet" (katsuretsu). Cutlets were very popular during the mid-Meiji era, around the late 1800s, and in Western-style restaurants in Japan from the 1920s to the 1980s, when more choices became available. Tonkatsu is prepared by dipping a thin slice of pork in a batter of flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs, then sauteeing this in a frying pan. Frequently, it is served with cabbage and a sauce made of Worchestershire and ketchup.

"I Can't Believe It's Fried Pig!"

Tonkatsu (豚カツ) is Japanese for "pig cutlet". Battered and deep-fried, it's about as far from sashimi as you can get on the spectrum of Japanese food, but damn is it good! Those of you who have learned to equate pork with stringy pork chops are in for a surprise. Tonkatsu is extremely popular in Japan, right up there with Japanese curry rice, and you can even buy the two combined as katsu karee.

The best way to eat good tonkatsu is to go to a specialty restaurant like the legendary Tonki in Meguro, Tokyo. Like tempura and sushi, there's an art to cooking it well, and even in Japan greasy and gristly tonkatsu is all too common. But here's a basic recipe for 4 if you want to give it a shot:



  1. Slash the fat rimming one side of the cutlet lightly to prevent meat from curling up. Sprinkle both sides with salt (lightly!) and pepper. Coat pork with flour (again, lightly).
  2. Beat egg and add 1 tsp of water. Dip each cutlet in the mixture and then coat with breadcrumbs.
  3. Heat oil to 180°C. Deep fry pork until golden brown on both sides (5-7 minutes), turning once or twice.

Slice lengthwise into finger-width slices for easy chopsticking. Obligatory accompaniments are lots of thinly shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, hot mustard, maybe a wedge of lemon and definitely some tonkatsu sauce. You can buy commercial tonkatsu sauce at any Japanese grocery, or manufacture your own by mixing 6 parts ketchup with one part Worcestershire sauce. Most barbecue sauces will substitute in a pinch.

Alternatively, you could add a few more calories by turning your simple tonkatsu into katsudon.

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