Introducing Yonsei Cooking, a series where I’ll attempt to make Japanese recipes suggested by my mom and share the journey.
Yonsei Cooking, Episode 1: Tonkatsu
So! I’m a Yonsei, which means I’m fourth generation Japanese-American. Being JA is different than being Japanese from Japan, and just a disclaimer that what I cook and how I do it…will not be 100% “authentic.” But I’m doing this in the spirit of learning!
This series is not really about sharing recipes because let’s face it, I’m no fancy chef and I certainly have no illusions about my abilities. This is a way for me to connect to my family and integrate some Japanese home-cooking into my weekly life and I hope it’s okay I share this all with you.
So, tonkatsu. What do I already know about it? I know katsu is delicious on sandwiches, I know it’s delicious with curry, and I know it’s the name of my friend’s cat. A little on the history of the dish: tonkatsu is actually a Western-style Japanese dish and was “invented” in 1899 at a Tokyo restaurant called Rengatei, first made with beef and then later with pork. According to this “Asian snack retailer” I found online, “During the Meiji era, Emperor Meiji – in his bid for Japan to become a more modern country and lead the way in terms of development – encouraged Western influence. It was this Western Influence that introduced pork and deep frying into the mix, and since then the dish has gone on to evolve into many variations that include chicken (torikatsu), fish and vegetables.”
It’s not a super fancy dish, but has this feeling of being more special than a typical weeknight dish for just yourself. My mom said she’d make this for a group of people because even though it is easy to make, it feels like it’d be for a special occasion. This may just be my mom, who prefers not to deep fry things.
There’s lots of ways to enjoy tonkatsu and katsu can be made with more than just beef or pork. A few goodies to accompany your tonkatsu? Shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce, mustard, lemon…plus have a side of rice, miso soup, and tsukemono (pickled veggies).
Okay, here we go!
So a few days ago my mom sent me a link to this recipe by Japanese Cooking 101 and though I purchased the ingredients a few nights back I stood in the kitchen preparing to conquer my fear of deep frying in my apartment.
Allegedly this recipe was going to take 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cook time. So far staring at the recipe *panicking* has already taken quite of bit of prep time from me.
4 pork loin chops (about 1″ thick, no bones) *a note that I went for two types of pork loin, one sliced thin for yakiniku grill use, and the other thicker and closer to the 1″ described in the recipe*
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup panko or bread crumbs
oil for deep frying
STEP 1: Prepare your ingredients!
At this point I realized it’d be important to have some bigger containers for the eggs and panko, as with a wider open tray it’d be easier to coat the pieces of pork. Part of learning to cook is realizing you don’t really have the necessary kitchen things all the time. But that’s okay, we’ll make it work.
STEP 5: Using canola or veggie oil, heat up the oil in a frying pan.
STEP 6: Prepare a tray with a metal drying rack. This is where you’ll put your fried pieces of pork to drip off extra oil and hang out. I didn’t actually have a rack, so I pulled the tray out of my toaster oven. Make. It. Work.
STEP 7: When the oil reaches 350 degrees F, add a few pieces of pork in at a time. To test how hot the oil is, use a food thermometer or drop a piece of panko in and see if it fries and floats. I wasn’t sure how much oil to use, but I finished up a bottle so I figured that was going to have to do.
STEP 8: Fry for a few minutes on each side, especially if the pieces are smaller. I flipped the pieces about 2 or 3 times each, just because I was nervous one side was burning. I wasn’t sure if I added enough oil to the pan, as there wasn’t really room for it to “float up” when done? I just eyeballed it.
STEP 11: Eat! My mom suggested serving with cabbage, but when I ran to Target earlier, unfortunately, they didn’t have any. It was delicious, especially with the Japanese mayo. The thinner pieces weren’t dry and were really flavorful…and the thicker piece did also cook all the way through so that was encouraging.
All in all, it was easy enough to find and gather the ingredients, prep them, and make the dish. I texted my mom throughout the frying process and she sent some encouraging words.
Mom approved. Me approved. I’d make it again, though hopefully next time I won’t be alone all day and there will be somebody else there to try it.
Much love friends.