• Chef Dylan

JAPANESE-STYLE TONKATSU



This simple dish is one of Japan's best kept secrets. If you have ever made a chicken schnitzel before, then this tender pork loin with a crunchy panko coating will be super easy to whip up.

Pronounced ‘Ton-kat-su’ this is one of those meals that once you taste it, you will be remaking it for weeks on end because every mouthful brings a kind of balance and harmony that will keep you coming back for more. I’ve added a generous splash of my Luck Dragon Asian sauce, as the caramelised garlic, sesame and soy in this sauce bring an umami savoury flavour as well as a splash of citrus that fried foods need to cut through the richness. I do use a small amount of mild, locally grown cayenne chilli in my Luck Dragon sauce to bring an extra dimension, but it is quite mild, so much so even my two-year-old nephew Remi is a fan. But for those who don’t like any heat, you can simply add one tablespoon of Luck Dragon to three tablespoons of whole egg mayonnaise, give it a mix and then simply serve it on the side because it will have all the flavour but without any heat. A sure win-win for everyone!


Did you know? This dish was inspired by French and Italian cuisine, and in 1899, the story has it that chef Motojiro Kida, who was the founder of Renga-Tei, a famous Western cuisine restaurant in Ginza, Japan, was becoming frustrated by the subtle negative remarks his patrons were making about his pork cutlet dish. “A little greasy” and “A touch dry” was the feedback he was receiving from his waitstaff when they politely inquired into why it wasn’t all being eaten clean off the plate. His ‘eureka moment’ came when he was eating a bento box at his local eatery and bit into a deliciously moist fried tempura prawn. He raced back into the kitchen and tried another technique he had learned. He lightly floured the pork cutlet, dredged it in egg and then coated it with Japanese breadcrumbs. He fried it in oil and then cut it into strips so it could easily be eaten with chopsticks. He served this dish up and much to the delight of chef Motojiro it was a huge hit with the patrons.


Chef Dylan Tip: Make sure you don’t get the oil too hot, or it will burn the breadcrumbs before the pork is fully cooked. Go to the effort of purchasing panko breadcrumbs, as they offer a lighter crunch, and they really transform this dish.


Osaka, Southern Japan 2004

Standing alone on the 6th floor of my hotel floor, I lean forward and gently press the upside-down triangle button to summon the elevator. I turn to look out the rain-splattered glass windows that cover the whole western side of the building, and it’s like peering out at some futuristic movie. The sky is a dull, muted grey, and light rain continues to fall. Looking down, I delight at the colour of the pink cherry blossom trees, which are in full bloom in the hotel gardens. In the distance on the horizon, I can just make out what looks like rice fields, and the colours of grey, pink and white remind me of the galahs back home.


Ping: “Doors opening”, comes a robotic sounding voice from the elevator speaker as the doors peel back like curtains. Standing there, I see four Japanese men. All dressed sharply in black tailored suits and polished leather shoes, who all simultaneously put down their identical briefcases to bow deeply. I can feel the blood rising to my face; blushing, I turn around expecting some important or regal person to be standing behind me, but there is no one there. “Doors closing”, comes the voice again, but quick as a flash, one of the men straightens his arm, and with a press of a button, out springs an extendable umbrella though still wrapped closed, it triggers the doors to retreat, and I hear again “Doors opening” to which I now quickly enter.


Being of below-average height for a westerner at 5 9’, I suddenly tower over the gentlemen who are all about 5 6’. “Where are you from?” asks the man with the umbrella in a soft, muted English. “Australia”, I reply. “Ahhh, Osutoraria", he translates for the others, who all now nod in unison and excitedly say “Kangaru, kangaroo” whilst smiling broadly. “We are from Tokyo,” he offers, “here for a business conference to market our umbrellas”, he says proudly; “It rains a lot in Osaka,” he says with a wink. “You don’t have an umbrella?” he questions. “Ahhh, no, not yet,” I say. “Here, here you can have this one”, to which he now bows his head and offers it up to me, holding it like a samurai sword “The best quality in Japan”, he says proudly. Feeling somewhat honoured, I take it from him. “Thank you, thank you”, I stutter whilst bowing to him. While rising, I place my hand in my pocket and pull out some yen. “How much do I owe you?” I ask. “No, no, no, no”, he says, waving his arms back and forward as if shooing away flies. “It is a gift from us. Please enjoy your stay here in Japan”. “Doors opening. Ground floor”, comes the robotic voice, and just like that, they all scamper out. Then, raising his hand waving, he shouts, “We are late, we must go. Hajimemashite!” I enter the foyer and turn to enter the breakfast hall, feeling that wonderful feeling that you get when you have a genuine exchange with a stranger that, as my nan would say, just makes your heart feel good.


Seriously, this flavour-bomb Japanese dish is off the charts. It will leave you craving it again and again and is an excellent way to add some variety to your weeknight meals.


PREP TIME: 10 mins

COOKING TIME: 5 hr

SERVINGS: 2


INGREDIENTS


  • 2 x 150g pork loin fillets

  • 1 cup plain flour

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 3 cups panko breadcrumbs

  • 1 cup vegetable oil (for shallow frying)

  • 4 tbs Luck Dragon Asian sauce

  • 2 cups rice, cooked

METHOD

  1. Set up a crumbing station. Place the flour and eggs mixed with milk and breadcrumbs into three separate shallow bowls.

  2. Take each piece of pork and coat in flour, dip into the egg wash and then gently coat in panko crumbs.

  3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the pork loin fillets for 3-4 minutes or until golden on both sides and cooked through. Place cooked pork onto some kitchen towel to drain excess oil.

  4. Slice into 2cm strips and drizzle over my Luck Dragon Asian sauce.


TO SERVE


Serve with rice. Dinner done.