Dripping with juices and impossibly tender, a deep-fried piece of panko-crumbed pork cutlet could only be one thing, and that’s Japan’s irresistibly crunchy tonkatsu. Uncomplicated yet addictive, tonkatsu originated during the 19th century under the influence of European cuisine and the steady rise of meat consumption in the Japanese diet. A Western-style yoshoku dish, tonkatsu was initially categorized as a foreign food, adjusted to fit the Japanese palate. Beautifully seasoned with salt and pepper, tonkatsu is a classic and filling meal on its own. Deep-fried till golden, juicy tonkatsu is served on a pile of shredded cabbage with a helping of rice, miso soup, and pickles on the side.
Whether it’s the lean fillet or the fattier loin, tonkatsu can be enhanced with artisanal salt or a sprinkle of shichimi (spicy pepper flakes). Classic tonkatsu is best doused in thick, savory tonkatsu sauce, except Nagoyans prefer it with a strong miso glaze. Found in fast food joints as well as dedicated specialty restaurants, tonkatsu is a dish enjoyed by both the poor man and the posh, featuring in many delicious Japanese foods. Over rice as katsudon with a soy sauce simmered omelet, or with Japanese curry as katsukare, learn how to make tonkatsu during one of our Japanese cooking classes; or discover the best tonkatsu in town during a local food tour. Perfectly deep-fried in a crispy panko coating, what more could you ask for?
Sign up to receive insider tips about the food scene in Japan's most extraordinary areas.