When I'm at home though, I'm all about simple, nourishing meals that titillate the tastebuds without much effort in the kitchen. This explains why I’m such a sucker for donburi. What’s a donburi you ask? Literally, a donburi is a large ceramic bowl, the kind of vessel you might serve a bowl of noodle soup in. But it's also the name of a rice dish that's served in its eponymous tableware. If you imagine a meat dish, a vegetable stir-fry and an omelette colliding over a bowl of rice into a delicious mess, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what most donburis are all about.
Although they can be made with any meat, seafood or vegetable, one of my favorites is katsudon. The “katsu” is short for tonkatsu and “don” (pronounced like "don't" without the "t") is an abbreviation for donburi. It’s a popular lunchtime meal in Japan and the best part is that it can be made with leftover tonkatsu from the night before.
The panko coating on the pork cutlets absorb the sweet and savory sauce while sautéed onions add big flavor to the dish. The egg not only binds everything together, it also absorbs the flavors in the sauce before percolating them into the rice below. Eaten together, katsudon is luscious, meaty, savory and sweet and has the remarkable ability to satisfy a handful of cravings in one bite.
Like any comfort food, I don't stray too far from the standard preparation but I do employ a few small tricks to make the standard katsudon even better. The first thing is to add a bit of potato starch to the sauce, it lends a barely perceptible viscosity that helps the sauce cling to the tonkatsu and rice rather than running straight to the bottom of the bowl. The second thing is to flip the tonkatsu after you add the sauce. This ensures the tonkatsu is well seasoned both top and bottom. Lastly, I usually cook the egg until it's just a bit less done than I want it to be as it will continue to cook as you assemble the rice bowl and carry it to the table.
- Break the eggs into a bowl and mix until the yolks are broken, but there are still separate areas of white and yolk.
- Add the dashi, sugar, soy sauce sake and potato starch to a bowl and stir to combine.
- Add the oil and onions to a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat and saute the onions until soft and just starting to brown.
- Push the onions to the edge of the pan and add the tonkatsu in the center.
- Pour the sauce around the cutlet and cover for 1 minute to let the sauce thicken and the katsu reheat.
- Remove the lid and flip the katsu over using a spatula. This ensures the katsu is well seasoned on both the top and bottom.
- Pour the egg all over and around the katsu and sprinkle on the green onions. Cover and steam until the egg is just a little less cooked than you want. Personally I like my egg creamy, so I let it steam until the egg is set on the bottom but still a little runny on top. By the time it gets to the table, the residual heat cooks it to a creamy custard texture.
- Put the hot rice into bowls and cover with the tonkatsu and egg mixture, drizzling any remaining sauce on top.