4.129 Tonkatsu (with recipe)

Cycle 4 – Item 129

14 (Tue) May 2013



by me

at home

-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with DJ and IZ

CMA re authenticity.  Tonkatsu is essentially the same in its Korean and Japanese forms.  The most obvious difference may be in the respective thicknesses of the pork cutlet – Korean = less than 1 cm vs Japanese = 2 cm – and the sizes of the bread crumbs in the coating – Korean = fine crumbs vs. Japanese = fluffy panko crumbs – but that’s not always the case either way.  Although ostensibly Korean restaurants and pubs still do tonkatsu in the former style, any establishment purporting to be Japanese will nowadays likely serve the latter.  Conversely, most Japanese home recipes that I’ve seen don’t even mention panko.  Come to think of it, I learned to make tonkatsu from a Japanese friend in college, who used pre-made bread crumbs from a box.  Furthermore, he showed me how to pound the cutlet thin with a mallet, both to tenderize the meat and to quicken the cooking time – the way that his mother had taught him back in Tokyo.  In other words, it all seems to depend on context, rather than country.


(Serves 4)

    • 400 g pork loin
    • 250 g white bread
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp white pepper
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups canola oil (any light oil will do, but not extra virgin olive oil

TIP: Loin is the ideal cut for this dish because it’s lean, and the circular shape is easier to work with. 

1.  Cut the meat into 4 pieces, each about 1 cm thick.

TIP: Before cutting, place the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm it up, which makes for easier cutting. 

NOTE: Obviously, the initial cut will determine how large in diameter the patty will be after it’s pounded flat; for smaller patties (e.g., to be used in a tonkatsu sandwich), slice the meat about 1/2-cm thick to begin with.

I picked up this stone from a beach in Nice, France, for this exact purpose.

2.  Pound each patty down to about 1/4-cm thick (about as thin as it can get without tearing).

TIP: Cover the meat with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent sticking and pound with a large flat surface (e.g., the bottom of a skillet).

3.  Beat the eggs thoroughly and combine with the vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then pour the mix into a shallow dish.

NOTE: The vinegar, which provides an indiscernible yet unmistakable lightness to each bite, is critical to this recipe.

TIP: Any clear acid will do, such as lemon juice.

4.  Prepare about 4 cups of coarse bread crumbs and place half in a shallow dish, half in a separate bowl.

TIP: I save the crusts and end slices from sandwich bread, store them in the freezer, and pulse them in the food processor when needed.

NOTE: Because the crusts and end pieces are dark, the resulting mix will be darker than store-bought bread crumbs.

5.  Add the flour to a shallow pan.

6.  Dredge a piece of meat on both sides in the flour and shake off the excess.

7.  Dip the meat in the egg wash on both sides.

8.  Place the meat on the crumbs in the shallow bowl, spread additional crumbs from the other bowl on top of the meat, then press down to get the crumbs stuck to the egg wash.

TIP: This two-bowl procedure isn’t strictly necessary, but I find that it facilitates the process, makes less of a mess, and leaves any leftover bread crumbs in the second bowl uncontaminated for later use.

9.  Gently transfer the breaded patty to a plate and let stand for at least 30 minutes to allow the bread crumbs to stick.

TIP: If time permits, refrigerate the patties for an hour or more; before cooking, take the patties out of the refrigerator and bring them back to room temperature, but no longer than 1 hour (to prevent spoilage).  

10.  Repeat steps 6-9 with the remaining pieces of meat.

11.  In a pan over low-medium heat, add about 1 cup of oil, enough to be about 1-cm deep so that it covers one side of the patty without submerging it completely.

TIP: Whereas tonkatsu is traditionally deep-fried, I find that this shallow fry makes it easier to regulate the cooking temperature and saves on oil.

12.  Place one patty in the oil and cook for 1 minute, flip and cook for 1 minute, flip and cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook for 30 seconds.

NOTE: At the right temperature, it should immediately begin to sizzle enthusiastically but not splatter furiously; the crust should be light tan but yet brown at the 1-minute mark.  

13.  Remove the patty from the oil and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel.

14.  Dredge any remaining crumbs in the pan.

15.  Repeat steps 12-14 with the remaining patties, placing them side by side on the paper towel, adding oil as necessary.

16. Cut each patty into 2-cm strips.

17.  Serve with tonkatsu sauce (see for example 3.121 Taste Test: Korean Tonkatsu Sauces).



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