Tonkatsu Not Tonkotsu
Who doesn't love fried pork chops? I really love the non-battered variety (especially when seasoned with cayenne peppers), but my favorite is the panko-breaded tonkatsu (豚カツ). It's a dish often confused with tonkotsu (豚骨), pork broth seen primarily in ramen. It's a staple in Japanese cuisine and is so delicious that I salivate just thinking about it. Before we get into the super easy not-really-a-recipe recipe, let me clarify the meaning of the two words so that you can be a connoisseur next time you take on Japanese pork. It's pretty confusing because the two words are practically the same except for one vowel. But that one vowel is key.
Both words start with "ton" which is one of the pronunciations for the character for pork: 豚. So what's the rest?
Tonkatsu: Katsu is short for katsuretsu which is a Japanese transcription of cutlet, so ton + katsu = pork cutlet
Tonkotsu: Kotsu is a pronunciation of the character for bone: 骨, so ton + kotsu = pork bone (broth)
Hopefully breaking the word up like this helps you remember which is which. Although at the end of the day they're both delicious so it's a win-win situation.
It's almost shameful to call this a recipe, because the only seasoning is salt and pepper. But it's too good not to share. You need very few ingredients: boneless pork chops, egg, flour, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and cabbage. The cabbage is even optional if you just want the pork chops (it's traditional to pair tonkatsu with raw julienned cabbage). The rest are pantry staples (salt, pepper, and oil for frying). For the sauce, you can buy tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog is by far my favorite brand) or you can mix ketchup and worcestershire sauce equal parts and add a dash of mirin.
Tips to creating the perfect tonkatsu:
1. Use panko, not regular breadcrumbs
2. Buy some pork chops with some fat on it: fat = flavor
3. Season your pork chops well (lightly coat with Diamond Kosher salt, a generous 3 pinch per side) because it's the only chance you will get
4. Follow standard breading procedure of flour > eggs > breadcrumbs (panko)
5. Fry at 325-350°F (if it's too low, the breading will absorb all the oil and not only will it never crisp up you'll be eating all that oil). If you don't have a meat thermometer to check, stick a wooden spoon in the oil and you should see small bubbles forming around the spoon.
6. When resting the pork chops, place on wired rack so they don't get soggy