This past Sunday, I got together with some friends to watch the Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan. Unfortunately the spirited grit of the Nadeshiko (nickname for the Japanese women’s soccer team) persevered in the end and defeated the U.S. in penalty kicks.
In the spirit of the event I made pork (tonkatsu) and chicken katsu sandwiches bridging the American love for sandwiches with a Japanese style of frying pork and chicken. Katsu is a type of yōshoku (Western-influenced food) that the Japanese have been making for over 100 years. Thin and tender cutlets of meat (generally pork or chicken) are coated in panko and then fried in oil to golden brown. The crunchy protein is then usually cut into bite-size strips and served with shredded cabbage, rice, pickles and miso soup. Sometimes, the Japanese serve katsu with a hearty plate of curry, rice and an assortment of pickles.
Katsu can also be consumed in sandwich form. This style is not novel and can be commonly found all over Japan from newsstands, quick markets and even snack carts pushed by Shinkansen (bullet train) attendants where I sampled one last year. Typically for the sandwiches the Japanese take fried katsu cutlets, wedge between bread, layer with katsu sauce (a style of Worcestershire sauce) and sometimes other common sandwich toppings, and then cut/shape the sandwich into rectangular form which includes removing the outer crusts.
For my version of these katsu sandwiches, I ran a few pounds of pork and chicken cutlets through a rigorous tenderization process (poked with forks, covered in Saran wrap and beaten/flattened) and then subjected to separate brines. For the pork, I placed them in a concoction of salt, brown sugar and water which I then refrigerated overnight. For the chicken — buttermilk and also a one night stay in the GE Hilton. Brining is completely up to you, but ever since I started I can’t go back to not brining; I find the added tenderness and moisture it imparts are imperative to my happiness.
Thereafter, I follow the instructions below (makes 6-8 servings):
You will need:
Pot, Dutch oven or skillet
Thermometer to measure the oil temperature
Absorbent paper or towels
2 lbs of pork loin, cut (if necessary) into thin cutlets and tenderized
2 lbs of chicken breast, cut into thin cutlets and tenderized
Salt and pepper
Potato starch or all purpose flour
4-5 eggs, beaten
2-3 cups of Panko bread crumbs laid out in a bowl or shallow pan
Togarashi pepper spice (optional — mix with panko for a little spice!)
Vegetable oil for frying
Bread, around a loaf
Japanese Worcestershire sauce (can be bought in stores or try this simple recipe)
Cabbage, shredded (optional)
1. Fill a pot, skillet or dutch oven with at least two inches of oil and bring to 340-350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Lay out the potato starch/flour, egg wash and panko into an organized assembly line – left to right, or right to left leading up to the oil.
3. Pat the chicken and pork dry with paper towels regardless if you brined them or not.
4. Remove the band of fat on the pork loin’s outer edge otherwise this will curl the pork during frying.
5. Apply salt and pepper to both sides of the pork and chicken.
6. Dredge pork/chicken in the starch/flour and shake off the excess.
7. Run pork/chicken through the egg wash and let the excess drip off
8. Coat in panko and shake of the excess.
9. Gently lay the pork/chicken into the oil and be careful not to overcrowd the pot. The oil temperature can drastically drop so monitor the temperature.
10. Cook for about 4 minutes turning once using tongs or until the meat turns golden brown.
11. Place between sliced bread (toasted optional), add your favorite sandwich accoutrements and enjoy!
- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog
– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.