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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

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Cooking on The Ridge: Chicken Katsu with Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce

by James Coulter

I’m a big fan of Japanese culture. (Or a “weeb,” as the kids these days call themselves!) I love Japanese anime, manga, video games, and especially the cuisine. Sushi. Ramen. Tempura. Curry. You name it. So, I recently decided to try preparing a popular Japanese dish: katsu.

“Katsu” means “cutlet” in Japanese. So, essentially, they’re fried cutlets (either chicken or pork) only prepared with Panko breadcrumbs rather than regular breadcrumbs.

What’s the difference? Well, according to Allrecipes: “Panko are made from a crustless white bread that is processed into flakes and then dried. These bread crumbs have a dryer and flakier consistency than regular breadcrumbs, and as a result, they absorb less oil.”

In other words, meat breaded with Panko flakes absorbs less cooking oil and thus tastes lighter and crunchier than regular fried food.

As with most Asian dishes, katsu is often served with rice. Sometimes it’s served with curry. Other times, it’s simply covered in gravy or sauce. One such sauce is tonkatsu sauce, which is what I decided to serve with my katsu.

“Tonkatsu” translates to “pork bones.” As such, it normally refers to pork dishes. That makes tonkatsu sauce essentially a Japanese barbecue sauce. The main difference is that, while American sauces have a sweeter taste, tonkatsu sauce (at least the recipe I prepared) has a more “umami” (or “savory”) flavor akin to soy sauce or mushrooms.

Cooking the katsu was easy enough. It simply required pounding flat my chicken breast patties, breading them in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs, and frying them in oil. I then prepared the sauce and boiled the rice and peas to serve alongside it.

One personal recommendation: buy thin chicken breasts. It’ll save you the time tenderizing the meat beforehand. Also, cut the meat in half. It’ll allow it to cook quicker and more thoroughly.

The only problem I experienced was burning my hand while frying the chicken. Never cook the chicken on high heat. And never toss it in with only your hands. Use a fork or tongs to place it in the oil. That should go without saying, but since I was left with a second-degree burn on my right hand…well, that was on me, wasn’t it?

Another pro-tip: in case you do burn yourself, immediately run your burn under cold water. Also, you should never place ice on the burn, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Place ointment or toothpaste on it. (Good to have a sister who’s a nurse and thus a medical expert on hand, quite literally!)

Anyway, if you’ve never had Japanese food before, I’d highly recommend trying this recipe. It’s both familiar enough not to be off-putting for newbies yet distinct enough to provide a unique dining experience. If you like chicken or pork, you’ll love this recipe.

(The following recipes were taken from AllRecipies.com)

Chicken Katsu

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or pork cutlets)

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 cup oil for frying

1. Flatten chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thickness. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Place flour, beaten egg, and panko crumbs into separate shallow dishes. Coat chicken breasts in flour, shaking off any excess; dip into egg, and then press into panko crumbs until well coated on both sides.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken in the hot oil, and fry until golden brown, 3 or 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

4. Serve with rice, veggies, and your choice of sauce or gravy.

Tonkatsu Sauce

½ cup ketchup

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp mirin (or substitute with sherry, wine, or vinegar)

1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 tsp minced garlic or garlic powder)

Mix ingredients in a bowl or cup and let sit for half an hour to let flavors blend.

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Staff Reporter

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