For Westerners traveling in Japan, European-inspired dishes like tonkatsu provide a taste of the familiar with a Japanese twist.
It didn’t take long for tonkatsu—breaded and fried pork cutlet—to become one of Japan’s most popular dishes. While many Japanese specialties are rooted in ancient tradition, this one was first prepared around the late 19th century, when restaurants began offering versions of European food known as yoshoku.
During the Meiji era, which began in 1868, Japan underwent a series of reforms intended to move the country into the modern era—and many of these were influenced by the West. Culinary trends followed suit, with ingredients like mayonnaise, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce gaining popularity. Even Western-style cutlery was common in yoshoku restaurants.
Today, many yoshoku dishes aren’t considered mere representations of Western food, but actual Japanese dishes in their own right. You’ll find katsu everywhere from convenience stores to upscale restaurants, and while pork is most popular, almost any meat can be prepared katsu-style. Look for it served as part of a set meal with rice, soup, and cabbage; in a curry sauce (katsu curry); over rice with broth and scrambled eggs (katsudon); in a bento box with sides; or in a sandwich on a hamburger bun or Japanese white bread.
You can watch the experts prepare tonkatsu in a short film after the recipe, courtesy of The Meatmen.
Tonkatsu (Fried Pork Cutlet)
9-ounce boneless pork chop
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Oil, for frying
3 1/2 ounces cabbage
Tomatoes, for salad garnish
Ingredient note: Tonkatsu sauce can be found in specialty supermarkets and at Asian markets.
- Tenderize both sides of the pork with a meat hammer, and then season it with salt and pepper.
- Combine 4 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon of white pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Stir to mix and set aside.
- In two separate bowls, whisk 1 egg and add 3 ounces of panko. Spray water on panko until it is slightly damp.
- Coat meat first with flour mixture, then with egg, and finally with panko, pressing to adhere. Deep fry for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oil and set aside.
- Finely chop cabbage, add to salad bowl, and set aside. Deep fry cutlet for a second time for 45 seconds.
- Serve cabbage with tomatoes and sesame sauce as a dressing. Slice cutlet into strips and serve with tonkatsu sauce drizzled over it.
Look for Western-style yoshoku dishes alongside traditional Japanese fare when you join O.A.T. for Japan’s Cultural Treasures.