Deep Fried Japanese – Part Two
Laying the deep-fried meat onto a cutting board, the knife is positioned to cut one-inch pieces. With a deft hand, the blade is pushed downward and a soft “thwack” sound upon the board.
A rocking motion, once forward, once backward, and the one-inch sections comes off cleanly. The exterior of the batter, at eye inspection, looks rough, heavy and uneven. Lifting it up, it stays on meat which is perfectly cooked throughout.
Dipping one edge into the deep brown, almost black, sauce, bringing it upward towards the mouth; the aroma is savory and enticing.
The first bite, the texture of the coating is actually, light and crispy. As one chews, it begins to melt; the sauce coats the tongue with a sweet, salty, tanginess that makes the eyes roll back into the head.
Such flavor, such richness, how could something so simple, be so sinfully…
…we interrupt our show with a word from our sponsor, Panko. Panko is Japanese style breadcrumbs. Large, flaky and do not pack together too tightly, so food stays crispier for longer periods of time.
The bread used is crustless white bread that is steamed, then dried before being processed into large flakes.
The flakes do not absorb as much oil as regular ground bread crumbs, enabling a lighter and crispier texture after frying. Even after being stored, in the refrigerator, for up to three days, the texture of the coating still had a less oily, yet crispier texture.
Panko is lower in calories, sodium, and fat, and higher in fiber than regular breadcrumbs, but is not gluten free.
While it is healthier than ground breadcrumbs, moderation is still a key factor when indulging in deep fried foods.
Now to introduce you all to another adventure in consuming deep fried Japanese food, Katsu. It is 1899, and while chefs in Osaka were developing new ways of using tempura batter; a Tokyo chef, in a restaurant called Rengatei, was creating katsu.
Once again, European influence was the background for the creation. Instead of simply coating meats with a light flour-based batter, panko was used as the texture would hold up better when paired with a Japanese favorite, curry. Japanese curry is unlike Indian curry, as it is made using curry powder, oil, and flour.
A roux forms, pureed steamed meat and vegetables are added, and the entire concoction is simmered until a thick sauce forms. The curry is then served with rice or udon noodles, or made into a bread or bun (encased in dough, covered in panko, and deep fried until golden brown).
Which brings us back to panko, and how to make the most delicious fried cutlets, katsu!
The basic definition of katsu is cutlet, and often applied when using chicken as the main ingredient. For pork, the word “ton” is added, so tonkatsu; for beef, add “gyu”, so gyukatsu.
The cutlets should be between ½-inch to ¾-inch thickness to ensure the meats are thoroughly cooked, but the panko coating does not over-brown, or burn.
The best instructions, and recipe, I have come from “Drive Me Hungry” food blog, written by a woman of South Korean ancestry. While you can go to her site (drivemehungry.com) for the full information, directions, hints and notes, I have simplified them for this article.
Tonkatsu (Pork), Katsu (Chicken) or Gyukatsu (Beef)
Ingredients: 2 slices boneless pork chops pounded to ¾ inch thick; 5oz each (or chicken or beef), 1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs , ½ cup all-purpose flour, 1 egg beaten, salt & pepper, vegetable oil for frying
4 Tbsp. ketchup, 2 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1/8 tsp. each garlic and onion powder, 1 and ½ tsp. sugar (optional)
Make the Tonkatsu/Katsu/Gyukatsu Sauce
Combine the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and garlic & onion powder in a small bowl. Taste and add sugar if desired. Set it aside. Bread the Meat
Prep the cutlets: Cut slits into the white connective tissue on the outer edge of each cutlet. This prevents it from curling up as it cooks.
Add the egg, flour, and panko bread crumbs to separate bowls. For a crispier crust, mix a tablespoon of flour with the egg to create a thicker egg wash for more bread crumbs to adhere to.
Salt and pepper each cutlet, then coat it in flour and shake off the excess. Next, dip it into the beaten egg and then firmly press it into the panko bread crumbs for a thick, generous layer of breading. Just before placing in oil, press each cutlet into panko again, as some of the coating may have become soggy while waiting for oil to heat up.
Deep-fry the Cutlets:
Heat oil: In a large heavy-duty pot or fryer, add enough oil to deep fry the cutlets. Heat the oil to 340F over medium heat to ensure the pork fully cooks without burning the bread crumbs. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop some bread crumbs into the oil. It’s ready when it begins to sizzle.
Fry the cutlets: Gently place a cutlet into the oil and deep-fry for 5 to 6 minutes per side or until meat is fully cooked and the panko coating is golden brown and crispy.
Use a skimmer to clean up loose breadcrumbs and try to keep the oil temperature at 340F. Repeat with the remaining cutlets and work in batches to avoid lowering the oil temperature.
Serve: Slice the cutlets into 1-inch strips, and serve with sauce, shredded cabbage, and steamed rice.
Makes 2 servings.
Leftovers: Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Reheat: Reheat in an oven or air fryer at 350F until warm and crispy, about 4 - 7 minutes.
My personal experience was that this recipe was spot on for making the most epic katsu. I used all three meats: chicken, pork, beef; all came out perfectly cooked, and the panko exterior was addict