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Tonkatsu: When the breaded schnitzel came to Japan

Tonkatsu: When the breaded schnitzel came to Japan

Tender meat, crispy breading, and hearty sauce – that's what defines Tonkatsu just like the beloved Wiener Schnitzel. It's the subtle differences that make the Japanese recipe unique and enthusiasts crave it.

A versatile meat dish

Cutlet originally came from Italy to Vienna. Similarly, Tonkatsu is not a typical Japanese specialtybut has its roots in the West, after which the dish was adapted into Japanese cuisine. Such dishes (Yoshoku) reached Japan during the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) when the country opened up to the rest of the world. The French Schnitzel served as a model for Tonkatsu. While originally veal was used for the French Schnitzel, in Japan, they soon turned to more affordable pork. This is how the name came about: ton means pig, and katsu is the abbreviation of katsuretsu. This, in turn, is the Japanese pronunciation of the English word Schnitzel, translated as "Schnitzel." So, Tonkatsu is nothing but a pork Schnitzel.

Nevertheless, the Japanese version is unique. Why? Just like with the Western cutlet, the meat is tenderized to make it thin and delicate. It is then seasoned and coated in flour and egg. Instead of breadcrumbs, Japan uses Panko, a fine Japanese breadcrumb made from white bread crumbs. The Panko gives Tonkatsu its crispy crust. Instead of pan-frying, the cutlet is then deep-fried in a fryer or a pot with hot oil. After draining for a bit, it is briefly returned to the hot oil to make it even crispier.

A proper Japanese cutlet comes with Tonkatsu sauce. It is based on the same ingredients as the sauce served with Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, and Takoyaki: Worcestershire, tomato, and soy or oyster sauce. It can be bought ready-made in Asian stores, but homemade tastes just as good.

How to eat tonkatsu Schnitzel?

Instead of French fries and salad, Tonkatsu is traditionally served with finely chopped cabbage and some vegetables. The cutlet itself is usually sliced small and served with the characteristic sauce. But that's by no means the only way to enjoy the Japanese Schnitzel. Here are some ways to savor Tonkatsu in Japan:

  • On the menu (Teishoku) with miso soup, rice, and other side dishes
  • As Katsudon in a bowl on top of rice and cabbage, topped with a beaten egg
  • In a sandwich with white bread – Katsu sando, a popular snack for in-between
  • In Katsu Curry with rice and a special fruity sauce. Japanese curry is usually cooked with carrots, onions, potatoes, and beef

You can find Tonkatsu not only in specialized restaurants but also in almost every snack stand that offers traditional Japanese dishes such as Donburi bowls.

Tonkatsu is a popular comfort food, especially enjoyed before exams or important events. Not without reason: besides its strengthening effect, the name also serves an important function. Katsu also means "to win." So, when you eat Tonkatsu, you symbolically already have victory in your pocket.

Prepare Japanese Schnitzel yourself

No. of persons1 personNo. of persons
Total Timeca. 45 minutesTotal Time
Level of difficultyeasyLevel of difficulty
Dishmain mealDish
Caloriesca. 600kcal per portion Calories
Tonkatsu schnitzel dipped in soy sauce

For Tonkatsu, you can use two types of pork cuts: either fillet or loin. The cutlet itself is easy and quick to prepare. Side dishes and Tonkatsu sauce then give it that special touch.

List of ingredients
200g high-quality pork cutlet or chop
1 egg
some wheat flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep-frying
Kochende Miss Oryoki
Step 1

Trim the excess fat from the meat. Then pound it carefully to tenderize it. If you don't have a meat tenderizer, you can also use a large knife. Use the back of the knife here.

Step 2

Break the egg into a deep plate and sprinkle the flour into another. Finally, put the breadcrumbs in a plate as well. Fresh, moist breadcrumbs are best. If you have dry breadcrumbs, you can soak them briefly in water - then they will stick better to the tonkatsu.

Step 3

Season the meat with a little salt and pepper to taste. Then roll the cutlets in flour and tap off the excess flour. Then dip each one in the egg and coat generously with panko breadcrumbs.

Step 4

Heat the oil in a deep fryer, a pan or a large frying pan. Fry the escalopes for one minute on each side. Take a kitchen towel or kitchen paper and leave the meat to drain for a few minutes. It is best to hold it vertically with tongs so that it is dry on all sides. During this time, the meat will cook from the inside using the residual heat.

Step 5

Then add the tonkatsu to the deep-frying fat again: this time for just 30 seconds at a time. The tonkatsu are now crispy and ready to enjoy. Just cut them into bite-sized pieces before serving. Of course, the sauce and garnish should not be missing here.

Recipe for tonkatsu sauce

No. of persons2 personsNo. of persons
Preparation timeca. 30 minutes Preparation time
Total Timeca. 45 minutesTotal Time
Level of difficultyeasyLevel of difficulty
Dishmain mealDish
Kitchenware Kitchenware
List of ingredients
1 1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire-Sauce
4 tsp. oyster sauce or soy sauce
2 tbsp. tomato sauce or ketchup
1 tbsp. sugar
Kochende Miss Oryoki
Japanese tableware view in the store »
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