Any long-time reader knows that I’m slightly obsessed with pork and pork dishes. One of the first “restaurant” dishes that I fell in love with as a child is tonkatsu, and it’s eggy variant katsudon. I say “restaurant” because this crisp breaded Japanese pork chop dish was something I couldn’t get at home. Japanese recipes were definitely outside my mother’s culinary wheel house. So I could only enjoy a tonkatsu when the family went out for Japanese (which fortunately was quite often, Japanese being my mother’s favorite cuisine, outside of Chinese that is).
My own kids are a little more fortunate in that Su-Lyn and I have dedicated a fair portion of our lives to learning a cookbook’s worth of global recipes that appeal to our little ones (and to us as well). So when T1 demands shabu shabu, a penne Bolognese, or a four cheese pizza, he gets fairly authentic versions, with almost everything made from scratch.
But when I was a kid, ordering a tonkatsu or katsudon was a treat. These were also my preferred go-to dishes in Japanese restaurants until I was about 13. While my parents were sushi lovers, and my brother started appreciating raw fish at an early age, the idea put me off for years. I simply refused to eat it until one day, during my thirteenth year, I suddenly realized that maybe I was missing out on something delicious. I boldly ordered a sashimi deluxe, much to the surprise of my family. Plus a warning from my mother, who said that I should have ordered just one or two pieces to try and that I had to finish the entire “deluxe” platter “or else!”.
Today, I’m still a huge tonkatsu fan. I’m constantly looking out for awesome versions, both here in Singapore and overseas. The best I’ve had, or at least my favourites, have been at Butagumi and Katsuzen, both in Tokyo. What I look for is a moist, tender, flavourful pork cocooned in a crisp yet still somewhat fluffy batter. The color of the crust is really important too; it can’t be overcooked, i.e. too dark and tasting a little burnt.
Over the years, I’ve occasionally dabbled with making tonkatsu at home, but because we can get pretty great variants here in Singapore, I never really got serious about it. And partly because of that (and partly because of a lack of proper research), the ones I made at home never matched what I’d eaten in better restaurants.
This past week, however, I decided to get serious. The superwife was going to be out, which gave me time and the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. I also finally decided to skim a few recipes, both in cookbooks I own and online.
I also remembered that 5 years back, Su-Lyn and I learnt how to make a delicious crisp fried pork loin noodle soup dish (pakomen) from the chefs at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu. What struck me about that pork preparation was that the marinated loin was dredged in potato starch.
I decided to do that this time as well. I had marinated my pork loin for a few hours in soy sauce and sesame oil. Having wiped it dry, I pounded it flat with a kitchen mallet; not so flat that it would tear, but at least 50% flatter than it was originally. I then dredged the pork in the potato flour and dipped it into beaten eggs, making sure it was entirely coated. I then placed that into a bowl with panko.
Now, I’ve found that when you do a simple flour-egg-panko breading, sometimes when you fry your meat, a lot of the panko breaks or falls off in the hot oil. On those occasions, the crumbs simply haven’t bonded sufficiently. I’d also read that a moist panko crumb sticks better. So, after coating my pork lightly but evenly with panko, I dipped it back in the egg, then returned it to the panko. The resulting crust had just the right consistency, i.e. the right thickness and it seemed to hold together well.
I then placed the breaded pork on a tray lined with baking paper and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I’ve learned also that it’s good to let breaded meats rest for a bit. This helps the crust to settle and stay together when frying.
Before frying, I took the pork out of the fridge and let it rest for another 15-20 minutes, mostly because I didn’t want the internal temperature of the pork to be too cold. In the meantime, I got a pot ready and heated up my oil. You want the oil to be able to almost submerge the pork when you fry it. I also prepared a wire rack, placed over a tray.
Once the oil was ready (test it by tossing in a few panko crumbs — it should start to bubble right away), place your pork carefully in. Fry for 90 seconds then flip the pork carefully and fry for another 90 seconds. Remove the pork and place on the wire rack. Wait for 5 minutes.
Just like with French Fries, if you want a crispier tonkatsu, the secret is in double frying. The resting time between fries also allows the pork to gently cook. After 5 minutes, place the pork back in the oil, cooking for 2 minutes, then flipping and cooking for another 2 minutes. Take the pork out, shake off excess oil carefully and return it to the wire rack. Let it rest for another minute and then you’re ready to cut it up and wolf it down.
Now, this might seem like an awful lot of steps to make something as simple as a breaded pork cutlet, and it is. Which is why it’s sometimes simpler to head out for certain dishes. But I’m happy I’ve finally perfected this. As are my kids, both of whom like tonkatsu (although probably not as much as I do). And now I know I can make this for the rug rats at home whenever they want, which makes the time and effort to do this properly totally worth it.
I hope this works for you as well. Happy eating.
As wonderful as apple pie is, it isn’t the only dessert out there that uses apples. These Brown Sugar Apple Cupcakes with Candied Ginger are an excellent choice for times when you want an apple dessert, but only have a single apple on hand. Anyone who has baked a pie knows that you’ll need at least a few apples to create the filling, and it’s nice to know that there are some options out there for times when you have only one apple to use up.
These cupcakes are a wonderful option for fall and winter baking. The base is a buttermilk and brown sugar batter that is spiced with ground ginger, nutmeg and vanilla. They’re packed with bits of diced apple and candied ginger. They have a tight, but very soft crumb, and the flavor of the apple and spices comes through really well. They’re downright addictive – and very satisfying if you’re in the mood for an apple dessert.
For best results in these cupcakes, you will need to dice your apple very fine. Any type of apple can be used – unlike apple pie, where you need apples that will hold their shape during a long bake – so feel free to use what you have on hand. My apple was diced into pieces that were less than 1/4-inch, which was about the same size as the pieces of candied ginger that I used. The apples blended almost seamlessly into the batter at that size, giving the cupcakes a lovely apple flavor without making them soggy due to excess moisture (a problem for cupcakes that use fresh fruit, sometimes).
The cupcakes are finished with a vanilla cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of candied ginger. They’re actually delicious enough to eat on their own, without the added frosting, but a little cream cheese is always a nice match for an apple cake. A few bits of candied ginger ties the frosting in nicely with the cupcakes and gives those eating them a look at what they’ll find inside.
Brown Sugar Apple Cupcakes with Candied Ginger
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light/golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup candied ginger pieces
3/4 cup finely diced, peeled apple
1 batch Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
candied ginger, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients and add in the ginger and diced apple when almost all the flour has been incorporated. No streaks of flour should be visible in the finished batter and both the apple and ginger pieces should be well-distributed.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached. Allow cupcakes to cool on a wire rack before frosting with Cream Cheese Frosting and decorating with candied ginger.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 – 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Blend in 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt and mix until frosting is smooth. Gradually blend in remaining confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick and spreadable.
Everything you need in one single set
With our premium 26-piece high-quality utensil set, you have everything at hand you need for cooking, no matter what dish you are planning to make. It features the most extensive selection of cooking utensils currently on the market.
Cooking with style
The simple yet modern design of our utensil set fits perfectly in any kitchen and easily matches the style of any other items or appliances. Got a new neighbor or it is your mom’s birthday? The stylish set comes in a nice box and thus makes the perfect gift for many occasions.
Thanks to its premium quality, the set is fit to last forever. All items of the set are dishwasher safe and meet strict FDA and LFGB standards.
What’s in the box?
Photo: Greg Seber
This post was originally published on October 16, 2009 and is now updated. I have added a recipe video and tweaked the recipe for best results.
Apple Sharlotka is a classic Russian cake that is prepared with tangy apples. Anyone who spent a chunk of his or her life (like me) in Soviet Union knows this cake. Born in Russia and popular across the vast Soviet geography, the cake belonged to the category of foods dubbed as perfect for gostya na poroge, or guests-at-the doorstep. So, this is a cake that a host can put together in no time, while chatting away with the guests to “blame.”
The KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor is powerful and durable. This model has a 7-cup work bowl with 2-in-1 Feed Tube and pusher for continuous processing. The 7-cup capacity is ideal for many home cooking needs, allowing you to chop, mix, slice and shred with ease, offering multiple tools in one appliance.
Please see User Manual, pages 10-12 for troubleshooting. Please refer to the instructional video for the food processor.
Choose from over 20 different colors of the KitchenAid Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer for the one that perfectly matches your kitchen design or personality. Easily make your favorite cakes and multiple batches of cookie dough with the 5-quart stainless steel mixing bowl with comfortable handle. With 10 speeds, the standmixer will quickly become your kitchen’s culinary center as you mix, knead and whip ingredients with ease. And for even more versatility, the power hub fits optional attachments from food grinders to pasta makers and more.