The first Japanese dish I learned to eat was tempura. In the 80s, when Japanese cuisine wasn’t as prevalent in Manila as it is now, tempura was probably the definitive Japanese dish. It was the only thing I’d order as a gradeschooler. So it’s understandable that trying a new dish out, Tonkatsu, was an exciting concept.
Now, years later, I know that Tonkatsu is just a Japanese version of porkchops, everything’s demystified. Still, that doesn’t lessen the tonkatsu love. I mean, you guys have probably noticed how often I do tonkatsu bentos—love definitely. So to fellow tonkatsu lovers, here’s a quick, step-by-step guide to demystifying this ubiquitous Japanese staple.
While there’s already a recipe entry dedicated to it, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do a walkthrough as well, just to stress how easy it is to make.
Start off with some pork fillets. What I usually use is the butterfly-cut porkloin. I just split it down the center, then trim the fat. Don’t worry if it’s too small, because you’re going to flatten it with a mallet.
Using a meat tenderizer or the blunt end of your knife, flatten the pork fillet until it’s considerably thinner and larger. The fillet on the left is before, the one on the right is after. Notice the difference?
Then in panko, Japanese-style breadcrumbs. It’s likely that you’ll get gummy fingers from all the dipping. To lessen the gumminess, use one hand for handling the dry dipping and the other for wet. It’s not going to totally prevent the build-up but it’ll take longer before you’ll need to wash your fingers.
That’s it! You can now fry them in oil, or freeze in a freezer-safe container. If you’re freezing, I recommend lining each layer with wax paper to prevent them from sticking. When frying from frozen, no need to defrost. Just keep your oil on medium heat to let it cook through.
Serve with tonkatsu sauce and lots of freshly steamed rice. Enjoy!