Introduction to Japanese Food – Tonkatsu

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.

Photo by xmascarol on Flickr

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.

Photo by by wallyg on Flickr

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.

tonkatsu restaurant

Look for the とんかつ sign

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!

7 Responses to “Introduction to Japanese Food – Tonkatsu”

  1. ken1  on August 3rd, 2011

    Hi! I am a Japanese.
    I love tonkatu too.
    My favorite sauce for tonkatsu is only soy sauce.
    But It is the minority.
    You should try it.
    You may discover new taste of tonkatsu.

  2. Travis  on August 3rd, 2011

    ありがとうケンさん!I’ll have to try the soy sauce on my tonkatsu next time.

  3. Ken  on August 4th, 2011

    Hi, I’m another Ken.
    I introduce a very famous family restaurant in Japan to you. You can eat Tonkatsu with reasonable price at the restaurant. When you come in Japan, please try it!

  4. Indy  on August 4th, 2011

    Love Tonkatsu, too. Some Tonkatsu shops recomend katsu with rock salt, instead of with regular source.

    Here is the Top 100 Tonkatsu shops in Tokyo. Try some when you come to Japan next time!

  5. Travis  on August 8th, 2011

    Wow that’s great! No wonder we have been getting a lot of traffic lately.

  6. Dustin  on September 19th, 2011

    Love tonkatsu…

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