Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Tonkatsu, a Japanglish word that describes a western-style pork cutlet, is one of my all-time favorite foods. Ton is the Japanese word for pig and katsu loosely means cutlet. The Japanese call western-style Japanese dishes yohshoku. Before retirement I worked for a multinational company whose cafeteria had a section devoted to Japanese food, so I'm no stranger to yohshoku. Every tenth day tonkatsu would appear on the menu and I'd be at the head of the line to claim a portion before it wilted on the steam table. I don't make this often and because it's a rare treat I've made some changes to the recipe to guarantee that it will be moist and flavorful every single time it comes to my table. The secret is brining. The technique is not Japanese and while it lacks authenticity and adds time to preparation, it's worth the effort because it keeps the pork moist. Tonkatsu is traditionally served with plain, shredded cabbage and a commercial sauce. Plain cabbage is not appealing to all palates so I toss it with a light Asian dressing just before serving and, while I can buy tonkatsu sauce, I prefer to make my own. Panko may be trendy but it absolutely necessary for breading tonkatsu. Standard Italian-style bread crumbs just won't give the crunch that adds texture to this dish.


3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 cups water
4 boned pork chops or cutlets, tenderized with a jaccard and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
Cabbage Slaw:
1 small head Napa cabbage
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Tonkatsu Sauce:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons catsup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water
1 to 2 cups panko
Peanut oil for deep frying


1) To make brine, combine salt, brown sugar, oil, vinegar, rosemary, pepper and water in a small bowl; whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour brine into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add pork and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours before cooking.
2) To make slaw, finely shred cabbage. Set aside. Combine sugar, salad oil, salt, pepper and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
3) To make tonkatsu sauce, combine sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and catsup in a small bowl; whisk to combine. Set aside.
3) To prepare pork, remove from brine and pat dry. Preheat oil to 350 to 375 degrees F. Add salt and pepper to flour. Dust pork with flour, dip into beaten eggs, than into bread crumbs. Fry, two at a time, in at least 1-inch of oil, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. Drain on paper towelling.
4) To serve, toss cabbage with reserved dressing. Spoon a portion onto four individual plates. Top with a cutlet. Serve with tonkatsu sauce. Yield: 4 servings.

This entry is being sent to Wandering Chopsticks who is hosting the November Regional Recipes Round-Up Japan which is sponsored by Darlene at Blazing Hot Wok.


Martha said...

An interesting looking dish. Although DH has traveled a lot to Japan, I've never cooked much Japanese. I think DH would love this.


Anonymous said...

In my travels to Japan, I tried this dish and LOVED it! Now I will try to replicate it at home with your recipe next time daughter Kate is home.

Cathy said...

I have pork cutlets that I bought from a market vendor that have been waiting for this recipe. And the panko makes all the difference. That's the only breadcrumb I use for seafood and schnitzel. The crisp cabbage slaw is perfect with the pork. Another winner, Mary.

Maria said...

Never heard of this before. I love that you try so many fun and interesting dishes!!

Deborah said...

How funny - I was making a menu last night and almost added tonkatsu to the menu! The recipe I made was years ago and was good, but this one sounds better!

Anonymous said...

Mary, this is new to me...Looks like a great combination.

dp said...

This is hilarious! I just posted a chicken katsu recipe today. We must have been on the same wavelength! :-)
The more the merrier!

I will definitely try your sauce. I usually just buy it, but this looks very easy.

Mary Bergfeld said...

dp, the more the merrier. Sorry if I step on toes. That wasn't my intent.

dp said...

Not at all! Seriously, my first reaction is that it's funny. Besides, how could we know what the other was going to post, especially when we do it within 24 hours of each other?

BTW, I was going to say that I didn't know tonkatsu was not origianlly a Japanese dish. I guess it's like the California roll? :-)

Mary Bergfeld said...

dp, a bit but not quite --- a bit more of the history can be found here

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Brining. I've never even thought of that, but it makes sense since I brine chicken before I fry it.

Sorry for the delay in the round-up. My laptop was stolen. The round-up will be up shortly.

free online adventure games said...

I'm not a big fan of the cabbage slaw that is so often served with japanese food - it's a little too 'pickled' or sour for my liking. Otherwise, I think the rest of this recipe is really worth trying! It's a challenge to make juicy pork cutlets at home without drying them out while frying, and your recipe made it that much easier. Thanks!

Tessa said...

made this dish tonight, needed something that included the cabbage that has been hanging out in my crisper and taunting me. what amazing pork! i have had difficulty keeping pork cutlets tender in the past, and this brine sure did the trick! everyone raved.

David said...

Mary, Ah...Welsh Rarebit! It was a family staple for many years while I was growing up. It was introduced to us by my Scottish stepfather and my mother enjoyed it for many years after he was gone. Love the Tonkatsu, my kind of pork dish! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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