Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ, or トンカツ, pork cutlet), invented in the late 19th century, is a popular dish in Japan. It consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet one to two centimeters thick and sliced into bite-sized pieces, generally served with shredded cabbage and/or miso soup. Either a pork fillet (ヒレ, hire) or pork loin (ロース, rōsu) cut may be used; the meat is usually salted, peppered, dredged lightly in flour, dipped into beaten egg and then coated with panko (breadcrumbs) before being deep fried.
Tonkatsu has Japanized over the years more than other yōshoku and is today usually served with rice, miso soup and tsukemono in the style of washoku (traditional Japanese food) and eaten with chopsticks. Recently, some establishments have taken to serving tonkatsu with the more traditionally Japanese ponzu and grated daikon instead of tonkatsu sauce.
Tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē). It is sometimes served with egg on a big bowl of rice as katsudon—an informal one-bowl lunchtime dish.
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. Some people like to use soy sauce instead. In Nagoya and surrounding areas, miso katsu, tonkatsu eaten with a miso-based sauce, is a specialty.
Variations on tonkatsu may be made by sandwiching an ingredient like cheese or shiso leaf between the meat, and then breading and frying. For the calorie conscious, konnyaku is sometimes sandwiched in the meat.
There are several variations to tonkatsu that use alternatives to pork:
- Chicken katsu (チキンカツ) uses chicken instead. This variant often appears in Hawaiian plate lunches.
- Menchi katsu is a minced meat patty, breaded and deep fried.
- Hamu katsu (ハムカツ "ham katsu"), a similar dish made from ham, is usually considered a budget alternative to tonkatsu.
- Gyū katsu (牛カツ "beef katsu"), also known as bīfu katsu, is popular in the Kansai region around Osaka and Kobe.
A similar cuisine with ingredients other than pork, beef or chicken is called furai (fry), not katsu (cutlet), such as aji-furai (fried horse mackerel) and ebi-furai (fried prawn).
Prices for a tonkatsu vary from 200 yen for a pre-cooked tonkatsu from a supermarket to over 5,000 yen in an expensive restaurant. The finest tonkatsu is said to be made from kurobuta (black pig) from Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan.
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