Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ, or トンカツ, pork cutlet), invented in the late 19th century, is a popular dish in Japan. It consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet one to two centimeters thick and sliced into bite-sized pieces, generally served with shredded cabbage and/or miso soup. Either a pork fillet (ヒレ, hire) or pork loin (ロース, rōsu) cut may be used; the meat is usually salted, peppered, dredged lightly in flour, dipped into beaten egg and then coated with panko (breadcrumbs) before being deep fried.
It was originally considered a type of yōshoku—Japanese versions of European cuisine invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—and was called katsuretsu ("cutlet") or simply katsu.
Early katsuretsu was usually beef; the pork version, similar to today's tonkatsu, is said to have been first served in 1890 in a Western-food restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo. The term "tonkatsu" ("pork katsu") was coined in the 1930s.
Tonkatsu has Japanized over the years more than other yōshoku and is today usually served with rice, miso soup and tsukemono in the style of washoku (traditional Japanese food) and eaten with chopsticks. Recently, some establishments have taken to serving tonkatsu with the more traditionally Japanese ponzu and grated daikon instead of tonkatsu sauce.
Tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē). It is sometimes served with egg on a big bowl of rice as katsudon—an informal one-bowl lunchtime dish.
Regardless of presentation, tonkatsu is most commonly eaten with a type of thick Japanese Worcestershire sauce that uses pureed apples as a principal ingredient and is called tonkatsu sauce (tonkatsu sōsu) (トンカツソース) or simply sōsu ("sauce"), and often with a bit of spicy yellow karashi (Japanese mustard) and perhaps a slice of lemon. Some people like to use soy sauce instead. In Nagoya and surrounding areas, miso katsu—tonkatsu eaten with a miso-based sauce—is a specialty.
Variations on tonkatsu may be made by sandwiching an ingredient like cheese or shiso leaf between the meat, and then breading and frying. For the calorie conscious, konnyaku is sometimes sandwiched in the meat.
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