5 (Sat) May 2012
Korean Tonkatsu Sauces
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Being Children’s Day – not that every day isn’t already all about the kids – the main dish was tonkatsu, one of DJ’s favorites.
While shopping for the ingredients at E-Mart a couple days earlier, I realized that I’d never given tonkatsu sauce a second thought, taking it for granted like ketchup.
So, I used the occasion to conduct a taste test of 4 sauces packaged under the following brands: Beksul, E-Mart, E-Mart Best, and Ottogi. The candidates were selected on 2 criteria: domestic brands (some Japanese sauces were available in the import section) in their standard formulation (not reduced in sodium or spiked with supplemental flavors). The judging panel was comprised of W, DJ, Nanny 2, and me. The test was administered in 2 stages: first, the sauces alone were tasted blind, sips of water to cleanse the palate in between, and ranked according to preference; second, the sauces were tasted with pieces of tonkatsu and ranked again. The sauces were scored from each judge’s ranking: 4 points for the favorite, 2 points for second place, 1 point for third place, and 0 points for last. Perhaps because the sauces were so distinct, each judge gave each sauce the same score for both stages.
Admittedly, without any notion of how a good or authentic tonkatsu sauce should be, my conclusions were purely subjective. In ascending order of preference, I found the E-Mart Best to be too sweet and buttery (no wonder DJ liked it), the Beksul too tart, the E-Mart deep in Worcestershire flavor but with a tap water aftertaste, and the Ottogi rich and well-balanced. During the blind tasting, based on the reputations and packagings of the respective brands, I was sure that my favorite would turn out to be Beksul and my least favorite to be Ottogi.
The overall winner was Ottogi with 10 points (ranked first by me and Nanny 2, ranked last by W), followed by E-Mart with 7 points (ranked first by W, ranked last by DJ), E-Mart Best with 6 points (ranked first by DJ, ranked last by me and Nanny 2), and Beksul with 5 points.
In terms of relative price, the Beksul was the most expensive at 3,450 won for 315 grams (1,096 won per 100 grams), followed by the E-Mart Best at 1,650 won for 280 grams (590 won per 100 grams), the Ottogi at 2,080 won for 475 grams (438 won per 100 grams), and the E-Mart at 1,980 won for 660 grams (330 won per 100 grams). As such, the top ranked sauces also represented the best value.
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