02 September 2007

Katsudon (with how-to)

(Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl) The sad thing about going to certain restaurants so infrequently is that when you hear you're going there, you're going to go for what you're craving, and in the process you never try anything new. Case in point: Kimpura, my favorite Japanese restaurant, and Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet). There's really nothing difficult or intimidating about making Tonkatsu, but every time I'm there, I can't help but order it (I think in all my years of eating there, the only non-classic menu item I've ordered is Itabukayaki, which is pork in mustard sauce. Not bad). The solution: make it at home. When you get to your restaurant, you won't have the craving for it any longer. Feel free to order anything else.

To make it "kawaii", I've made Katsudon, which is really Tonkatsu in a rice bowl presentation. Classic Katsudon is pork cutlet without the traditional thick, sweet, Worcestershire-like sauce, and instead topping rice mixed with mirin, dashi, soy sauce, sugar, leeks, and a raw egg. I have nothing against that, but I love traditional tonkatsu sauce, and I'm not too hot about the mucus-y rice (okay, it does sound like I have something against it). So instead, I've made a non-traditional but still classic Katsudon, with accompaniments of Tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and tomato. (Instructions follow)
You may remember the giant pork loin from before. I told my mom I had no intentions of roasting that monster again (we had two of them), so I set my mind of pork cutlets. Cut the raw loin into 0.5-inch (1-cm) thick slices, then pound with a tenderizing mallet until you have limp sheets.

Your prep should consists of a tiny dish of salt and pepper, one plate of plain flour, one bowl of beaten egg, and one bowl of fresh or dry bread crumbs (I used dry). As you can see, I dumped the flour on top of the meat as I'm not so great with washing dishes. Don't do that. Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge with flour. Take the slice and slap it to get rid of the floury excess, or your breading will slip off your cooked cutlet. Dip in beaten egg, briefly shaking off the excess, then into the bread crumbs.

Take your prepared cutlets to the fridge for 2 hours or in the freezer for 30 minutes to make the breading crispier.

I used a fairly shallow skillet to pan-fry my cutlets as I don't like using a lot of cooking oil, just because of the waste. Preheat the oil to 180°C (360°F) and no hotter. This is a low flame, my fire-loving friends. I used a deep-fry thermometer. Other techniques that have been used to measure oil heat is by measuring how long it takes the breading to brown, how furiously it sizzles, or as soon as dipping bamboo chopsticks causes the oil to bubble. I'm a novice so I don't want to use any of those techniques. Deep fry the cutlets for 5-7 minutes, turning once in the process.

As you can see, preheating the oil to what Filipino cooks are used to for deep-frying causes the cutlet to brown too quickly and is not considered aesthetically pleasing, I guess. The darkest cutlet there was cooked at 400°F. Yikes.

Using a sharp knife or cleaver, cleave the meat into 1 cm strips against the length and rearrange them on the plate or rice bowl as a complete cutlet (use the side of your knife to lift the whole cutlet without destroying it).

I used Ottogi Pork Cutlet Tonkatsu sauce, which is a relatively inexpensive (PhP80) Korean brand, and tastes pretty good. The other available brand is Bull-Dog (PhP140). I've heard of other brands such as Kikkoman but they're not sold here, as far as I know. Serve with shredded cabbage or coleslaw, topped with tomato purée or slices.

To make classic Katsudon, combine 1-1/4 cups dashi, 3-1/2 tablespoons mirin, 1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce, and 1-1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce in a saucepan, add chopped leeks and onions, and bring to a boil, cooking until the leeks are soft. Pour over the rice. Just before serving, pour a beaten egg on top and top with the pork cutlet.

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