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Tonkatsu: The Crispy Pork Cutlet Everyone Loves

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 13, 2022

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Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish typically consisting of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. It is often served with rice, vegetables, usually placed on a bed of shredded green cabbage, and dipping sauces and can be found at many restaurants in Japan.

There are many different ways to make tonkatsu, but the most common method is to bread the pork cutlet in a mixture of flour, egg, and bread crumbs.

The cutlet is then fried in oil until it is golden brown and crispy.

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu can be served with various dipping sauces, such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or tonkatsu sauce.

As well as being served as a single dish, it is also used as a sandwich filling or in combination with curry.

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Is tonkatsu only pork?

Yes, tonkatsu is only made with pork, but variations of katsu can also be made with chicken or beef.

The main difference between tonkatsu and katsu is that tonkatsu is only made with pork, while katsu can be made with chicken or beef. Katsu is also usually not breaded, and it is often served with a sweeter sauce.

Ton (豚) means “pig” and katsu stands for katsuretsu or “cutlets”. Tonkatsu is therefore pork cutlets, while other katsu can be made from the cutlets of other animals like chicken or beef.

What does tonkatsu taste like?

Tonkatsu is usually served with a variety of dipping sauces, but the taste of the dish itself is fairly mild. The pork is usually juicy and tender, and the breading adds a nice crunch.

If you are looking for a dish with a little more flavor, katsu curry is a popular variation of tonkatsu that is served with a curry sauce.

How do you eat tonkatsu?

The pork cutlet can be eaten as is, or it can be dipped in one of the many sauces that are typically served with the dish. Tonkatsu is usually served with rice, vegetables, and a side of pickled ginger.

What’s the origin of tonkatsu?

Tonkatsu was first created in Japan in the late 19th century. It is thought to have been inspired by a similar dish from Germany called schnitzel.

That’s called yōshoku in Japan, a Western-influenced dish during the Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912).

The dish became popular in the early 20th century, and “tonkatsu” was first used in the 1930s.

What’s the difference between tonkatsu and tonkotsu?

Tonkatsu is a dish made with pork cutlets, while tonkotsu is a broth made with pork. Both dishes have “ton” in them, which means pig, but “katsu” means cutlets, and “kotsu” means bone.

What’s the difference between tonkatsu and a schnitzel?

A schnitzel is a dish made with a breaded, deep-fried cutlet of meat, and it is thought to be the inspiration for tonkatsu.

The main difference between the two dishes is that schnitzel is usually made with veal or pork, while tonkatsu is only made with pork.

Other differences include what the meat is served with because schnitzel is usually eaten as is or with gravy and a side of potatoes or mashed potatoes, while tonkatsu is usually served with cabbage and rice with a sweet dipping sauce.

Types of tonkatsu

There are many different types of tonkatsu, but some of the most popular include:

  • Hire katsu: A lean pork tenderloin cutlet fillet
  • Rosu katsu: A pork roast cutlet. This type of tonkatsu is usually a little fattier than hire katsu.
  • Kurobuta katsu: A Berkshire pork cutlet from a special type of pig raised for its especially tender meat.

While tonkatsu is usually served with its special Tonkatsu sauce, a thick and savory sauce made with Worcestershire sauce, fruit juices, and other seasonings, you can also find some other variations or mixes made with:

  • Ponzu: A citrus-based sauce made with soy sauce and vinegar.
  • Karashi (Japenese Mustard): A sharp and tangy sauce made with ground mustard seeds.

Some popular side dishes to eat with tonkatsu include rice, miso soup, and pickled vegetables.

Where to eat tonkatsu?

If you’re looking for a good place to eat tonkatsu, check out one of these restaurants:

  • Tonkatsu Wako: A popular chain of restaurants specializing in tonkatsu.
  • Butagumi: Another popular chain of restaurants specializing in tonkatsu with locations in Tokyo and Osaka.
  • Katsukura: A restaurant chain known for its kurobuta pork tonkatsu.

Tonkatsu etiquette

When eating tonkatsu, it is considered polite to:

  • Use your chopsticks to pick up the pork and dip it into the sauce, rather than pouring the sauce over the pork. The first bite you take is usually only with a little salt so you can taste the crunchiness and the pork before disguising the taste with the sauce.
  • Eat all of the cabbage that is served with the dish. It is there to cleanse your palate in between bites of pork.
  • You should only order it for lunch at noon, it’s not a dinner dish because it’s considered not a good dish to have a conversation over.

Conclusion

Tonkatsu can be a delicious and easy dish to make at home, or you can enjoy it at one of the many restaurants specializing in this dish.

No matter how you eat it, tonkatsu is sure to be a tasty treat!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.