It was during our last visit to Japan that I came across the wonders of tonkatsu. The first time I had it I was hooked and it became my comfort food of choice. If no one had any suggestions for where to eat, it was tonkatsu for me!
What is Tonkatsu?
Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ, or トンカツ) is at it’s simplest form is a breaded and fried pork cutlet. Although you can get tonkatsu in different forms you typically have it fried with a generous helping of a bbq style dipping sauce.
You’ll most likely also be served a small dish that you grind sesame seeds in and add your sauce to it. It gives the sauce a nice nutty flavor.
Some restaurants may boast their own special dipping sauce as well.
Regardless of presentation, tonkatsu is most commonly eaten with a type of thick Japanese Worcestershire sauce that uses pureed apples as a principal ingredient and is called tonkatsu sauce (tonkatsu sōsu) (トンカツソース) or simply sōsu (sauce), and often with a bit of spicy yellow karashi (Japanese mustard) and perhaps a slice of lemon – Wikipedia
When you order tonkatsu as part of a set meal (and I highly recommend that you do), it usually comes with shredded cabbage, miso soup and rice. The shredded cabbage may or may not come with a thousand island style dressing. My brother-in-law much preferred it with the salad dressing but I found the finely sliced cabbage to be a nice cool, crunchy treat that contrasted well with the spicy bbq sauce.
How to find Tonkatsu restaurants
The good news is that tonkatsu restaurants can be found all over Japan. Almost every food court will have one and they are easy to spot by the plastic food representations outside the shop.
If you’re on the street look for store curtains or flags that say とんかつ. They’re great little shops that serve pretty much only tonkatsu. Although you can usually pick up a beer with your meal as well. And nothing quite goes as well with tonkatsu like a cold beer.
And who can talk about food without going to our favorite cooking dog, Francis. Here Francis cooks up some tonkatsu to add to a soup called katsudon. The dish takes its name from the Japanese words tonkatsu (for pork cutlet) and donburi (for rice bowl dish).
And here is a good introduction video to eating tonkatsu:
So, have you had tonkatsu yet? We’d love to hear what you think of it!
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