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!