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A katsu party

katsu1This 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.

katsu2Katsu 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:

Tongs

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.

17 comments Add your comment

Reds

July 20th, 2011
8:18 am

Brining is imperative to your happiness? Oh my.

John

July 20th, 2011
8:45 am

Thanks Gene, sounds delicious and brining is a great idea.

Kar

July 20th, 2011
9:32 am

Supposedly this was an attempt to interpret weiner schnitzel just like chicken-fried steak was the Texan way of dealing with the lack of veal.

Not sure if I prefer the katsu or the CFS. Depends on the day.

Edward

July 20th, 2011
10:52 am

The katsu with curry is a really popular fast-food in Shanghai, with many small shops all over. I love it.

Maery

July 20th, 2011
1:35 pm

I agree with the brining. It does make a huge difference. I brine chicken parts, pork chops, roasts, etc.

Lee

July 20th, 2011
2:02 pm

They serve katsu at Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ on Briarcliff Rd. Delicious!

Robyn

July 20th, 2011
3:07 pm

Love, love, love tonkatsu sandwiches especially with a little pickle hidden between the bread and tonkatsu!

Helga

July 20th, 2011
3:11 pm

After spending 9 years living in Japan, this became a favorite meal of ours and still is, we reguarly eat it at home with rice and raw shredded cabbage.

RK

July 20th, 2011
3:31 pm

I tried brining a few years ago, but I always ended up having salty food…except for the one time I made vanilla bean and black peppercorn brined pork. Yum.

Chris

July 20th, 2011
3:43 pm

Gene. Thanks for the recipes. I love eating Katsudon at my favorite Japanese places, but have never tried cooking it at home because I’ve never deep-fried anything before. A couple of questions:
What kind of oil should be used to fry in?
How do you measure the temperature of the oil?
What do you do with the oil when you’re done with this recipe? Do you toss it (and if so, how)? Or do you keep it to fry with later (and if so, how do you store it)?

Gene Lee

July 20th, 2011
4:36 pm

@Chris – I generally alternate between regular vegetable oil or peanut oil for frying (mostly veg oil b/c it is usually cheaper). Safflower and sunflower oils are also good for deep-frying because of their high smoke points — meaning these oils can get real hot without burning/transforming into clouds of smoke (think EVOO if you leave it too long in the frying pan). I also hear palm oil is good, but I’ve never used it for frying purposes.

Regarding measuring the temperature, most food thermometers have a long thin metallic gauge that you can stick right in the oil. There are some big stubbier ones that are better used for sticking in a holiday turkey though. Look for something lengthier that will keep your hand away from heat as much as possible, and something that can read up to high temperatures (400+ F). Otherwise, if you are in a pinch and don’t have one — try throwing a little batter in the oil and if it immediately bubbles/dances around, this is generally a good gauge that the oil is ready.

Your last questions are good ones. Frankly, it depends on what I cook and how much I am cooking that determines if I store and reuse oil. But the short answer is, I generally discard it after a single use. This obviously doesn’t make it practical if you are just cooking for yourself but when frying for a larger number of people, the utility of it makes more sense. However, I have done some light vegetable frying where the resulting batch of oil still appears clean and reusable. But from what I understand, after initial exposure to high heat the oil has already began oxidizing which increases its rancidity and loss of nutrients (I hear restaurants tend to reuse the oil a lot due to cost concerns).

Meat/proteins — such as this katsu that I’ve written about — tend to darken the oil and increase the oil’s rancidity more than vegetables do. I chuck this after one use. But I’ve lightly fried a small amount of vegetables and have cleaned/filtered the oil and reused it one more time. To clean/filter the oil, I run it through a mesh strainer and then fine cheesecloth (to filter out the finer grit) and store at room temperature away from light.

Lots of work but worth it if you can get it down. Additionally, I urge you and anyone here to practice the utmost safety if you plan to deep-fry in your homes. See this site for tips — http://busycooks.about.com/od/quicktips/qt/deepfrying.htm

Chris

July 20th, 2011
4:49 pm

Thanks, Gene! I appreciate the help and tips. I can’t wait to try this at home. And I promise to be careful!

Archie1954

July 20th, 2011
5:33 pm

This dish sounds very much like German Weiner Schnizel!

1164mgc

July 21st, 2011
12:13 pm

Thanks for the info on the oil. I always thought the oil tasted bad after using it once and now I know why:-)

Sportsmommy74

July 22nd, 2011
4:59 pm

After growing up in Hawaii, chicken katsu, mac salad and a scoop of rice, is and will always remain my favorite meal… Waikikie Hawaiian is pretty good.

Columbus

July 22nd, 2011
11:09 pm

Hi, can you tell me how or when the worcestershire sauce is used or applied? Thank you.

Gene Lee

July 25th, 2011
9:00 am

@Columbus – If you make katsu in sandwich form, use it like a sandwich spread (think mustard, mayo, etc..).
If you eat katsu in strip form and w/o bread, serve with a side of Worcestershire sauce and use it for dipping.