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Between you and me, these are pretty much the same thing as schnitzel, escalope Milanese or cordon bleu without the cheese. A lean, thin and mean slice of veal, chicken or most commonly pork, smashed down flat and fried in breadcrumbs.
It probably all has the origin with a particularly mean (and lean) chef who aimed to feed a good few mouths with a small piece of meat. He sliced it thin, smashed it into nearly two-dimensional and coated with layers and layers of egg wash and breadcrumbs before frying them crisp and enticing, so the poor diners were presented with a plate-size result and guiled into believing they were being served a lavish portion.
I know – and I’m not being serious above – a tender layer of meat in crunchy golden coating is the thing of beauty, albeit possibly dieters’ bane. I used to think that breadcrumb coating was a redundant feature, serving only to cover up a multitude of sins, including chef’s stinginess. But now I’m willing to concede that breadcrumbs might not detract the value of food and that batter is sometimes worth considering; see: tempura. I’m becoming so open-minded about food I’ll soon be asking for curries.
So anyway, this is a schnitzel in its Japanese incarnation – katsu. Tonkatsu is fried pork; torikatsu is chicken and breaded fried shrimp… yes, I thought it would be a ‘-katsu’ of sorts, but nothing like that: it’s called ebi fry. It can still be served with katsu sauce, thank God!
- For the katsu:
- 4 x 100g pork medallions or centre-cut pork chops (about 1 pound in all)
- salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp. plain or rice flour, or a mix
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- groundnut or vegetable oil, for frying
- For the tonkatsu sauce:
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. mirin (or dry sherry)
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
1. To make the tonkatsu sauce, mix all the ingredients and decant to a dipping bowl. The sauce will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
2. Trim the chops of all the fat and veiny bits. Place each between sheets of cling film or parchment and flatten with a mallet or a rolling pin to about 1cm thickness. Season them with salt and pepper.
3. Prepare the flour in a shallow dish, beat the eggs with the Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree in a bowl and pour the panko into a third, shallow dish.
4. Dredge the pork cutlets in flour, shaking off the excess, coat them in the egg mixture and then thoroughly in the panko breadcrumbs. If possible, place them all on a tray line with paper towels and chill for 10-15 minutes to firm them up.
5. Heat enough oil in a large frying pan to come up to 1 cm deep over medium-high heat. When it’s lightly shimmering (after about 40 seconds) fry the katsu in batches, for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp; when they land in the pan tilt it to swirl the oil around and over the meat to extra crispen the crumb.
6. When ready, drain them on paper towels and keep warm (in very low oven) until all the meat has been fried.
7. Serve with the tonkatsu sauce and pickled or smashed cucumbers with oriental dressing.