Tonkatsu

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Tonkatsu is a pork cutlet that has been breaded and deep-fried Japanese style. The secret to getting the brittle crispy exterior is using panko—Japanese bread crumbs, which are much larger and coarser than Western-style bread crumbs. Most Japanese season tonkatsu with store-bought tonkatsu sauce, which to me tastes too sweet. Instead, I prefer to make my own or simply use soy sauce and a squirt of lemon on my cutlet. This method of breading and frying is used on a number of different ingredients, such as fish filets, or even slabs of eggplant or tofu.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 35 min
  • Active: 35 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

For Serving:

Tonkatsu Sauce:

Directions

Special equipment:
a deep-fry thermometer
  1. Pour the oil into a 3-quart (3-liter) cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a sheet tray with paper towels.
  2. Trim the fat around the edges of the pork chops if desired. Pound the pork chops with a meat mallet to slightly flatten and rub with the salt and pepper. 
  3. Coat and bread your pork chops. Line up three small shallow bowls: one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs and one with the panko. Take one pork chop and lightly flour it on both sides, patting to remove excess flour. Dip the chop into the egg and then coat it generously with panko. Repeat with the remaining chops.
  4. You are now ready to start frying. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a few bread crumbs into the oil. If the crumbs sizzle up instantly but do not burn, the temperature is right for frying. Add two chops to the oil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are lightly browned on one side. Flip and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned on the second side. The timing will depend on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of the oil. Test for doneness by taking one chop out of the oil when it is lightly browned on both sides and slice it; it should not be pink inside. Be careful not to overcook the pork—you want your cutlets to be tender and juicy. Drain the chops on the paper towel-lined sheet tray to remove excess oil. Remove any crumbs from the oil with a slotted spoon and fry the remaining two chops. 
  5. Slice the pork crosswise about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) thick and serve over the shredded cabbage with the lemon wedges, your choice of sauce and a bowl of fresh-cooked rice on the side. 

Tonkatsu Sauce:

  1. Bring the dashi to a boil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the liquid thickens and reduces by one-third, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and make adjustments.
  2. If you like the sauce sweeter, add more ketchup, sugar or some mirin. If you want the savory flavors to come out, add more soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Makes 2/3 cup (156 milliliters).

Cook’s Note

The Tonkatsu Sauce recipe here calls for kombu dashi, a Japanese broth made with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. You can find the method for making homemade kombu dashi in the recipe Miso Soup with Summer Squash, Tofu and Wakame.

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