Katsudon

Posted on July 5, 2007 by Aun

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I should probably apologize to some of our readers out there. In one of my last posts, I briefly mentioned that during the summer of 1994, after reading Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, I was inspired to spend several weeks searching for the very best katsudon in Paris (where I was living at the time). While this little factoid was just a (very) small and tangential part of a much larger post, I think it got many readers pretty excited. Several people left comments on this blog and emailed me asking where, in fact, was the best katsudon in Paris to be found. Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer. Firstly, that was 13 years ago and I really can’t remember which restaurants I went to back then. I have to admit that my search wasn’t entirely systematic either. It was more like, “oh ho… another Japanese restaurant. Okay, let’s see how good their katsudon is!” Secondly, while a couple versions were not bad, none of them blew my mind, i.e. none were so outstanding that I would have taken note of the name of the restaurant. So, to those friends and readers hoping to gobble some yummy katsudon in the City of Lights, I apologize for getting your hopes up.

That said, I’m not surprised by the excitement generated by this wonderful dish. Even before I read those gorgeous and inspiring passages in Kitchen, I was a huge katsudon fan. In fact, for a couple of my childhood years, it was the only thing I would (or really wanted to) eat in a Japanese restaurant. (That was before I discovered, or rather tasted, sushi.) Even today, a good katsudon is one of my favourite lunches. And before local friends and readers ask me where the best one in town is, I’ll say that I don’t know that either. I personally enjoy the version served at Tomton, which is in the basement of Liang Court and part of Meidi-ya (there is also a branch at Central, but I haven’t been there yet).

To make ammends to new-found friends who got a tad excited by my mention of this super-yummy fried pork, eggs, onions and rice dish, S and I would like to share our favourite recipe for making it. Our’s is a variation of the recipe you’ll find in Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, which is a great book that anyone looking to cook Japanese at home should pick up. While the recipe is simple, it is also a tad fiddly. You need to cook the pork first, set it aside (over hot rice), and then cook the egg-broth mixture which is poured over the pork and rice. Done well, there are few dishes that are as comforting and as satisfying. The secret, S and I have realized, is cooking the egg-broth mixture so that it’s only half set. That way, when you pour it over the pork and rice, a good portion of the liquid runs through and flavours the rice.

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Katsudon
Serves 2

1½ cups Japanese short-grain rice (more if you prefer to have more rice)
2 pork loin cutlets, roughly 180grams each (they are often labeled tonkatsu cuts in Japanese supermarkets, look for pieces with nice fat marbling)
1 tablespoon light Japanese soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon mirin (optional)
2 shiso leaves, julienned (optional)
salt and pepper

for breading
6 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1 egg, beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

oil for deep-frying

onion and egg topping
1¼ cups dashi
3½ tablespoons mirin
1½ tablespoons light Japanese soy sauce
1½ tablespoons dark Japanese soy sauce
½ medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings or crescents
1 tablespoon oil
2 spring onions (preferably Japanese), cut into 4-cm lengths
4 eggs, beaten

Wash the rice 30 minutes to an hour before you intend to cook it and let it drain in a colander. You can either prepare the rice in a rice cooker (follow the instructions in your manual) or boil it in a heavy-based pot. Cooking rice in a pot requires a little practice. Use a pot that isn’t too large or too small for the quantity of rice you intend to cook. Pour enough water to cover the rice by around 2½cm (1 inch). Cover the pot with a tightly-fitted lid and place it over medium-high heat until the water boils. Then turn the heat up and let the water come to a vigorous boil (the lid should bounce from the pressure of the steam). A white, starchy liquid will bubble from under the pot lid. When this bubbling ceases, reduce the heat to low and cook until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Do not lift the cover off the pot as the rice cooks.

Once all the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat (do not remove the pot from the burner) and let the rice stand, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes before you fluff it with a wooden paddle or spoon. Ideally, stretch a kitchen towel over the pot lid (over the bit that sits over the rice) and return the lid to the pot. This prevents moisture from dripping back onto the rice. Set it aside until you’re ready to serve it.

We like to marinate the pork cutlets with soy, mirin and shiso. Alternatively you can just salt and pepper both sides of the pork. We leave our pork to marinate in the soy, mirin and shiso for around 30 minutes. Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels before pounding them with a mallet (we find it handy to cover the pork with a layer of clingfilm before doing this). Dust with cornflour, dip in beaten egg and coat both sides thickly with panko. Let the prepared cutlets rest for 2 to 3 minutes before you fry them.

Heat a generous amount of oil (we use corn oil) in a heavy-bottomed pan to medium temperature (170 degrees Celsius/340 degrees Fahrenheit) and deep-fry cutlets one at a time, turning once, until golden brown (approximately 4-6 minutes each). Remove, drain on absorbent paper and cut crosswise into 1½ cm (½ inch) slices.

Divide the rice between two bowls. Top each bowl of rice with a portion of sliced cutlet.

Combine the dashi, mirin and soy sauces. Heat ½tablespoon oil in a small frying pan (if you can find the round pans with the upturned handles, which are made specially for donburi dishes, by all means buy one) and sauté half of the prepared onion slices/rings over high heat until they become translucent. Add half the dashi-mirin-soy mixture and bring to a simmer. Add half the spring onions. Finally, pour half of the beaten eggs over the simmering onions (pour in a circular motion so that the egg is evenly distributed). Stir when the eggs begin to set. The topping is done when the eggs are still runny. (You want some of the liquid to seep into the rice.) Cover one bowl of rice with this egg and onion topping. Repeat with remaining ingredients and top the second bowl of rice. Serve immediately.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. didally July 5, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I love runny egg on my rice. So tempted to scoot off to the supermarket to get the ingredients!

  2. Mari July 5, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Japanese one-bowl comfort food, just what the doctor ordered! I’m digging your frying pan, too. It gives me an excuse to peruse Amsterdam’s Asian markets in search of a new tool!

  3. Joel July 6, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Hi! I have been reading your blog for a few months now and you have inspired me to start some reviews of restaurants on my own. I was just wondering whether you could give me any tips on reviewing, as well as the sharp photos that you have! For example, what mode do you use to shoot pictures?

  4. AbsolutelyTokyo! July 6, 2007 at 5:05 am

    I’m been a lurker on your blog for quite a while now and love your posts and pictures! Fantastic!
    Just read your recipe for katsudon and wondered about one of the ingredients. When you say “corn flour” do you mean what we Yanks call cornstarch? Or do you really mean a type of flour that’s made from corn, like masa?

  5. S July 6, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Sorry AbsolutelyTokyo!, we should’ve typed “cornflour” rather than “corn flour”. Yes, it is what you guys call call “cornstarch”. In our part of the world we use the Brit term “cornflour”.

  6. Sandrine July 6, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    It’s just incredible… 6 years ago, after reading “Kitchen” from Banana Yoshimoto, I was simply craving for a Katsudon but at that time I was still living in Lyon (France), it was just impossible to find this on the menu of Japanese restaurants. A year later, I was studying in Vancouver, a city full of Japanese restaurants, where I was finally able to try this dish. Ever since I have become what we can call a Katsudon-addict, every time I am in a Japanese restaurant, wherever it is in the world I just have to try the Katsudon to find the perfect one. The first time I tried to cook it myself, I found the recipe of another person who was also craving for a Katsudon after reading the novel! Now I am just waiting for my ultimate trip to Japan to find the perfect Katsudon, just like the one described in “Kitchen”.

  7. calvin July 6, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    yum! thanks for the recipe … will try it out real soon … imho … best ever katsudon i’ve had … maisen @ omotesando, tokyo …. the very first bite i took trancended me to a different realm (here’s a pic … http://cyberk13.multiply.com/photos/photo/10/9). How something so simple in thought yet so difficult executing in perfection is a testament of what great food is …

  8. veron July 7, 2007 at 4:46 am

    I am so trying this! It is one of my favorites!

  9. yj July 8, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    you might wanna give nogawa restaurant (sentosa golf club) a shot. the katsudon is quite mind-blowing. u can order from the golf club restaurant. they get their katsudon from nogawa

  10. V July 9, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Thanks for the recipe and the trick. I’ve not really realized that the secret is cooking the egg in broth. It’s difficult to find katsudon here (Switzerland) so I’ll try it one day.

  11. ximena July 9, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    I adore katsudon, thanks for the recipe. You make it sound less daunting than I thought

  12. Gourmet Traveller July 11, 2007 at 5:47 am

    love love love Katsudon – now, I know I can make it at home. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. Sophie July 12, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Impeccable timing – I’ve finally found somewhere in Oxford to get panko breadcrumbs from! Cheers for putting so much detail in the recipe – as Ximena says, it makes it seem a bit less daunting!

  14. veron December 20, 2007 at 1:06 am

    I tried this recipe last night. It was delicious and I had my japanese-food hating hubby loving it as well. The dashi definitely gives that umami taste to this dish!

  15. cathy March 5, 2008 at 2:35 am

    that looks delicious & easy to make. thanks for the tips on cooking rice stovetop.

  16. Linda Lim December 9, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I love your blog and tried out the Katsudo receipe…its great. The only problem I have is that the pork cutlet is not fried to a golden brown and the bread coating is not cruchy. What is the secret to it? Temperature? Amount of oil?

  17. S December 16, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Hi Linda, try to have use enough oil to immerse at least half the thickness of your pork cutlet. Heat the oil until a piece of panko thrown into the oil falls to the bottom and immediately rises to the top sizzling.

  18. Nami Ogishima October 19, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Hey! I’ve had a look at your method for katsudon, and thought I’d just leave a message to say it’s great to see people who are not traditionally Japanese try making these dishes at home! And it looks so authentic too, both your Mentaiko Pasta (or should i say pasuta?) and Katsudon, and Bara Chirashi. Always, in my family, we make katsudon by simmering the katsu (crumbed pork) with the egg and onions mixture. My grandmother says, it’s because that way the taste seeps properly into the katsu, in Japan, that is how all the restaurants serve it!

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