Another Japanese post and another one of my all-time favourite dishes, tonkatsu. For those who don’t know, tonkatsu is a Japanese dish where a pork fillet is dipped in an egg coating, rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy. It’s hugely popular in Japan and is usually served with rice and shredded cabbage or alongside Japanese curry. It’s also commonly served with a delicious sweet and salty sauce commonly called tonkatsu sauce, but was always known in my house as ‘bulldog sauce’ due to the picture of a bulldog on the brand that my mum would always buy. I still call it that too.
This recipe combines my love of tonkastu with my love of American fast food to create the Tonkatsu burger. It’s dead simple with very few ingredients, but that’s the way I prefer my burgers. Feel free to experiment and add loads of extras.
- 2 decent sized pork fillets
- Flour for dusting
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil
- Cabbage, shredded finely
- 2 x burger buns
- Tonkatsu sauce
- Kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese mayonnaise)
Unlike the Austrian schnitzel, the Japanese tonkasu is usually quite thick (about 1 – 1.5 inches thick), but because we’re not slicing this like a traditional tonkatsu, you might need to beat the pork with a mallet down to about an inch if you have a particularly thick cut. Also try to get your pork piece so it roughly covers the circumference of your burger bun.
Set up three shallow bowls or plates in a line – one with flour and a dash of salt and pepper, one with a beaten egg and another with Panko breadcrumbs. Take the pork and dust it in the flour, then coat the pork in the egg mixture and finally cover in the breadcrumbs, pressing down to make sure it sticks around the whole pork. Repeat with the other piece of pork.
Heat a decent amount of vegetable oil in a pan so you get at least a centimetre in your pan. You can test if it’s hot enough by dropping a spare breadcrumb and it should crisp up in about 10 seconds. When it’s hot enough, carefully place your breaded pork in the oil and let it shallow fry for about 3 minutes or until the breadcrumbs get all golden and crispy. Turn your pork over and fry on the other side for a few minutes until it’s golden and cooked through. Take it out of the pan and let it rest of some paper towels for a few minutes.
Slice open two burger buns and lightly toast or steam them. Place your cooked pork on the bottom half of your burger and swirl on a generous amount of tonkatsu sauce (seriously – the stuff is delicious and you’ll want more). Top with a good serving of shredded cabbage and top that with a big dollop of Japanese mayonaise before finishing it with the top of the burger bun.
Serve with some homemade chips and an Ahsahi beer. For another Japanese flavour, sprinkle the chips with nori (seaweed) flakes as seasoning.
JAM: Happy End – Haru Yo Koi
When I think burgers, I think rock. When I think Japanese rock, I think of Happy End. Happy End was a Japanese band that only existed from 1970-1973 but were hugely influential in Japan and still today regularly top the ‘best of’ lists when it comes to Japanese bands. Even if you know nothing about Japanese music, you’ve probably heard Kaze Wo Astumete, which was featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. They fit somewhere between the sweet spot of folk, psych and bluesy rock and they’re well worth checking out.
While their album Kazemachi Roman is probably their most well known (and for good reason too), I’m going to choose a song from their first self titled album. Prior to this album, Japanese rock artists usually sang in English because at the time that’s what Japanese rock bands had to do to succeed. Happy End bucked the trend and sang entirely in Japanese, making a turning point in Japanese music when the album was received very well. Check out the first song on the album, Haru Yo Koi, below:
Their albums are quite hard to come by but if you dig through the right second hand record stores you can find them (I found 3 of their albums at Licorice Pie Records in Melbourne last weekend). Otherwise check out discogs for vinyl/CD copies and impress your friends when they come around for Japanese burgers.