"Tonkatsu" is a kind of "wa-shoku", or Japanese food, made by deep frying thick slices of pork coated in beaten eggs,
flour, and panko (Japanese bread crumbs) in oil. Finely chopped raw cabbage and ample amounts of sauce go together very well with the crispy fried tonkatsu.
One thing indispensable to tasty tonkatsu is Bull-Dog Sauce!
The birth of Bull-Dog sauce generated the tonkatsu boom in Japan
and it grew to be a popular food of Japan.
Tonkatsu sauce is crafted by stewing vegetables and fruits, then mixing in vinegar and sugar, salt, and spices. While the sauce has its origins in English Worcestershire sauce, the flavor was changed to better suit the taste of the Japanese people, and it became its own original Japanese condiment, with a special sweetness and full-bodied flavor, sourness, and thickness.
The primary ingredients in Japanese sauce are vegetables and fruits, to which vinegar and many spices are blended. This had the effect of deepening the richness and increasing the appetite. Japanese tonkatsu sauce uses a lot of vegetables and fruits like tomatoes and apples, which make it a highly viscous sauce well suited for deep-fried foods, without getting them greasy or soggy.
This breaded meat dish and sauce made from vegetables, fruit, vinegar and spices pair well with the delicate Japanese staple food white rice. Likewise, the sourness of the sauce gives heavy fried foods a taste that is refreshing and easy to eat.
Tonkatsu and its sauce are inseparable. The thing that helped fuse the western "cutlets" with Japanese cooking the most is the sauce, and in fact it would not be a stretch to say that without the sauce, tonkatsu would not exist.
Our sauce contains an abundance of vegetables and fruits like tomatoes,
onions, carrots, apples, lemon, and prunes.
The natural sweetness and sourness come primarily from the flavor of these vegetables and fruits.
This sauce is made up of about 30% vinegar.
Vinegar not only gives flavor to the sauce, but is effective in preserving it and keeping it bacteria-free.
It is an indispensable ingredient in the making of our sauce.
It is also said that vinegar is effective for helping strengthen the appetite and recover from fatigue.
In our sauce, over 10 different spices are ground and blended in-house, including ginger, red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, laurel, and thyme.
This magnificent blend of spices gives the sauce its tangy and refreshing flavor.
Tonkatsu has a history spanning over 100 years.
The word "tonkatsu" is said to be derived from the French word "cotelette".
"Cotelette" refers to cuts of veal, lamb, or pork from around the spine often containing the bone, also known as a "chop".
The English word "cutlet" when put into Japanese would be pronounced "katsuretsu".
Beef and chicken cutlets first began to appear on Japanese menus around the latter half of the 19th century,
when western cooking started being adopted in Japan. However, they had not yet become commonplace.
After that, around 1895, western restaurants in Tokyo's Ginza district began to sell pork cutlets,
and their popularity started to spread.
Around 1930, restaurants around Tokyo's Ueno and Asakusa areas began to offer cutlets using thickly cut pork under the name "tonkatsu."
The word "tonkatsu" comes from the combination of the Japanese kanji for pork "豚",
which can be pronounced "ton", and "katsu", a shortened form of the English word "cutlet."
Covered with sauce and served with rice, miso soup, and chopped cabbage,
"tonkatsu" became popular, and began to spread as a Japanese dish all around the country.
Image of tonkatsu at the time.
There are some special characteristics in the art of cooking tonkatsu.
This is not the same as "cutlets", but rather an original Japanese cooking method.
In regard to the way the oil is used in particular, Japan has established a cooking method
in which a large amount of oil is used to fry the ingredients so they are crispy and not greasy,
like tempura, and this is used for tonkatsu.
Tonkatsu captures the essence of Japanese cuisine: it makes the most of the flavor of each ingredient,
it is crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside, and is finished off with sauce.
In Japan, a votive wooden tablet with a picture painted on it, called "ema", is offered to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple when praying for divine protection, such as success in entrance exams.
(The Japanese on the "ema" in the picture says "passing an exam")
The Japanese often eat tonkatsu before an entrance exam or sports competitions.
This is because the "katsu" in tonkatsu is a homonym for the Japanese word for "victory", as in the expression "victory over the enemy."
Thus there is a custom of eating tonkatsu before a contest.
Even today during entrance exam season, many examinees will eat tonkatsu before taking their exam.
Moreover, the image of tonkatsu as a special treat has become commonplace.
It is thought that this is because meat used to be a highly prized ingredient,
and because there was aspiration toward western food.
Tonkatsu may be eaten on a father's pay day, a day of celebration, or simply a day that one wishes to give oneself more energy.
Tonkatsu eaten on a such a special day brings out feelings of happiness; for Japanese people, it is soul food.