Lots of good things are happening lately, and one of them is pork tonkatsu, a delicious Japanese dish of pounded, breaded, and fried pork chops. This was a week-night special in my house growing up. I can still hear dad's hammering on the cutting board as he pounded out the boneless chops nice and thin. Can still see his hands flouring, egging, and breading the chops. Can hear them crackling around in the pan. Can remember refusing to eat the tangy, dark sauce and insisting instead on having ketchup - ah to have young and unappreciative taste buds, for there is ketchup in the sauce. We usually ate this with white rice and broccoli: a simple, quick, and oh-so-tasty meal, fit for a king and queen, or a family of four. The other day, I had it for lunch.
When I was growing up, I took the ease and deliciousness of tonkatsu for granted. Now, I turn to those old favourites to remind me of the "good ole times." But this time one thing was holding me back from satisfying my craving: I didn't have a meat pounder. This is a bit ridiculous, seeing as I bought a mandoline the other day. Mandoline's are much less useful than meat pounders. Why wouldn't I have just bought a meat pounder? Who knows. I guess I was waiting for one to come for me - that can be a fun approach sometimes, waiting. After complaining about this lack of pounder to Alix for almost four months, or so it seems, she lent me hers, poof! just like that.
I couldn't possibly wait any longer to make the recipe, so I marched off to the market, got myself some tasty little cutlets, and set to work. Here's what you do:
Adapted from the BIRC (Best International Recipe Cookbook)
For two people
This recipe calls for bread crumbs. I strongly recommend finding some panko crumbs, Japanese bread crumbs. They're far superior to regular crumbs and easy to find nowadays. Just look in the foreign section of the grocery store! (If you have as terrible a foreign section as I do at my store down the street, you'll have to ride your bike a bit farther to the health food store, as I do, and you'll find them there for sure.)
2 boneless pork chops, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
1/4 C cornstarch
1 large egg
1 C panko
2-4 TBS of vegetable oil
- To pound the pork chops, place them between some Seran wrap, and using a meat pounder, pound them until they're 1/4 inch thick. This will prevent bits of meat from flying everywhere. The Seran wrap will start to tear by the end, but this is nothing to worry about. Pound valiantly on!
- Set up three bowls: one with cornstarch, one with egg, and one with panko. Starting with the cornstarch, coat the chops first in cornstarch, then in egg, and then in panko. Use one hand for the egg and the other for the dry ingredients; otherwise, you'll stick to everything, and this is quite disagreeable. Set them on a wire rack to dry for 5 minutes.
- In the mean time, heat your medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat and make the sauce.
1/4 C ketchup
1 TBS Wooster sauce (that's Worcestershire sauce for northern folk)
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
- whisk all ingredients together.
- Heat the oil in the pan until shimmering. (I used much less than CI (Cooks Illustrated) calls for, but I'll let you be the judge. You don't want too much because it splatters everywhere and you worry about your heart, but you definitely want enough to give the chops a nice golden colour.)
- Cook each cutlet on each side for about 4 minutes. If they're thin enough and your pan is hot enough, they should cook quite quickly. I gave mine a poke to make sure they were firm, but slightly springy. CI recommends you cook them on each side for 2 1/2 minutes and then finish them in the oven. I decided this was a waste of electricity and left them in the pan for longer. It appeared to work BEAUTIFULLY.
- Thinly slice the crispy chop and place it over a bed of soba or rice noodles, or just rice. Pour the sauce over top (see photo above!). I cooked my soba noodles in salted, boiling water and then sauteed them in the frying pan I cooked the pork in with some ginger, scallions and garlic. This was quite successful. There was also broccoli involved, which was also stupendously delicious.
So go buy those chops, buy that pounder, stand at that counter, and give 'er.