Call me a geek, but I'm a bit obsessed with the history of food. Contrary to popular belief, even the most "authentic" dishes are often influenced by ingredients or techniques from other parts of the world. That's because the journey of food parallels the journey of humankind, taking unexpected twists and turns, which bring ingredients and techniques continents away from where they originated.
Since Tonkatsu is a simple dish that only has a few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients matter. The most important component is the pork and you'll want to splurge here on a tender cut with some fat marbled in. I like using either a loin chop or rib chop but look for a cut with even marbling and without much connective tissue and you should be okay. Heritage breeds like Berkshire (kurobuta) or Iberico are the best since they haven't had the fat bred out of them.
- To prepare the cabbage salad, separate the leaves from the head, trim off the tough stems, roll a few leaves together and use a sharp knife to slice the cabbage into thin threads. If you have a mandoline, you can leave the half-head of cabbage whole and just mandoline the cabbage and then pick out the tough bits.
- Soak the cabbage in cold water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This not only crisps the cabbage it tames some of the cabbagy funk.
- Prepare two bowls, one with a well beaten egg and the other with the panko. Prepare a wire rack lined with 2 paper towels.
- Add 1 1/2-inches of oil to a heavy bottomed pot and then add 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. Heat the oil to 340 degrees F (170 C).
- For the pork, salt and pepper both sides. You can also add other seasonings here.
- Dust the chops with an even coating of flour.
- Dip the cutlet in the egg and coat evenly.
- Transfer the pork to the panko and dust evenly, pressing down gently on the cutlet to ensure you get a good coating of breadcrumbs.
- Fry the cutlets until the panko is golden brown and they register 145 degrees F (63 C) with an instant read thermometer. Flip once to ensure even browning and use a skimmer to remove any foam that accumulates on the surface of the oil. Be sure to remove the katsu from oil before measuring the temperature or you'll end up getting a false reading. Depending on how thick your chops are they will take anywhere from 7-10 minutes to cook through.
- Drain the pork on the paper towel lined rack and let it rest for a few minutes.
- While the pork rests, drain the cabbage and use a salad spinner to remove any excess moisture. Place big mounds of cabbage on each plate.
- Slice the tonkatsu and plate with the cabbage. Serve with Tonkatsu sauce. If you don't have tonkatsu sauce, you can make a simple version by mixing a 1:1 ratio of ketchup and worcestershire sauce.
This is recipe is for a very basic tonkatsu, but if you want to do something a little different you can add seasonings such as grated ginger or garlic or even curry powder when you salt and pepper the chops. Alternatively you can also brine the pork ahead of time to give it even more flavor.