Hito Kuchi Tonkatsu: Bite-Sized Pork Cutlets

Bite Sized Tonkatsu

This dish is a decorative version of tonkatsu, deep-fried pork cutlet. Tonkatsu (ton=pig, and katsu=cutlet) is a poplular dish that came to Japan through the Dutch influence in the late nineteenth century. Tonkatsu is so popular in Japan that there are even restaurants that serve only tonkatsu and similar items such as kushikatsu (bite-sized fried bits of pork and other things on a skewer). This recipe is from another of my Japanese cookbooks; the recipe in my project book is very similar in that the pork is rolled with miso and shiso, however Ms. Shimbo has the cook cut the rolls, skewer them, then coat with panko, and deep-fry. This was one of the first recipes I cooked for the CookTalk project, and it was delicious, but the pretty spirals are hidden by the bread coating. I have included Ms. Shimbo’s technique of double coating the rolls with flour because it fries up to a beautiful crispy finish.

Bite Sized Tonkatsu

Bite-Sized Pork Cutlets
Hito Kuchi Tonkatsu
from Washoku, by Elizabeth Andoh

Bite Sized Tonkatsuserves 2 – 3 as a main course
or 4 – 6 as an appetizer
page 263

  • 10 to 12 ounces lean pork butt, or boneless loin
  • 4 to 5 shiso leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon bainiku (umeboshi paste),
    or 1 umeboshi, pit removed and flesh mashed
  • 1/2 sheet nori’
  • 1 Tablespoon Leek Miso
    (a condiment recipe in Ms. Andoh’s book made with sweetened mugi miso (barley), and leek.)         

    • I just mixed a little miso with green onions and mirin)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 small egg, beaten with 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Partially freeze the pork. Cut paper-thin slices against the grain. You should get eight to ten slices, about 2 1/2″ wide by 4″ long, 1/8″ thick. (You can overlap and patch together the less than perfect slices to make a whole piece.) Lay the slices on a work surface with the shorter sides at bottom and top. Each slice will become a roll. And this recipe makes 2 versions.

  1. Trim the stem from each shiso leaf, and cut leaves in half lengthwise. Place the straight cut edges flush, right and left, with the longer sides of the meat, overlapping in the middle if necessary. Spread a small portion of the plum paste thinly over the leaf. Starting from one of the shorter ends of the meat, roll away from you jelly-roll fashion. Repeat to make 4 or 5 rolls. Set aside, seam side down.
  2. Cut the nori into 4 or 5 strips, one strip for each piece of meat. Lay the nori in the center of a slice and spread a bit of miso over it. Starting from one of the shorter ends roll away from you jelly-roll fashion. Repeat to make 4 or 5 rolls. Set aside, seam side down.

Dust each roll with flour. Pay special attention to the seam, keeping it sealed and dusting over it. Then dip the flour-dusted rolls into the egg mixture, shaking off excess liquid, and roll in flour again—shaking off excess flour. Finally dip each roll in the egg mixture a second time and cover with panko crumbs. To make sure each roll is fully coated, lay the egg-dipped roll on a pile of the panko crumbs, and using scooping motions with a spoon, cover the top of the roll with crumbs. Lightly press the top layer with the back of the spoon. Set the breaded rolls aside on a dry paper towel.
To cook the rolls later in the day, cover them with another paper towel and seal with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Bite Sized TonkatsuBite Sized Tonkatsu

For frying, pour 2 1/2″ of oil into a wok (or your favorite deep-frying pot) and bring the temperature up to 375°F, working in batches, add the breaded rolls a few at a time, and fry undisturbed for about 2 1/2 minutes, turning only once at the half-way point. They should be golden brown and firm. When you insert a toothpick through the center of it. If liquid appears around the tiny hole, it should be clear. Drain on paper towels.
To serve hot: cut each roll in half (diagonally) and serve immediately.
To serve at room temperature as an appetizer or in a bento: let the rolls cool completely, then insert decorative toothpicks into the rolls, then cut each roll into halves or thirds.


Bite Sized Tonkatsu

*Usuyaki tamago is a very thin sheet of egg. It can be used somewhat like a crepe for wrapping other ingredients.  Cut  it into thin filaments (golden strings: kinshi-tamago) for a garnish, as I did for hiyashi chuka soba—scroll down to “thin omelette” if you want instructions to make usuyaki tamago.  In this recipe, it became a layer in this colorful roll. 

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2 thoughts on “Hito Kuchi Tonkatsu: Bite-Sized Pork Cutlets

  1. Yum! This I’ll try when I get the panko my friend promised me she’d get for me… hopefully very soon!
    I am sad to say I missed out on having tonkatsu while in Japan, but this will be a comfort, I’m sure.

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