Katsu don is now a classic lunch dish in Japan, that while not very traditional, has almost become a kind of Japanese soul food. When Japanese people want a quick, hearty meal at a restaurant they’re likely to order curry, a noodle dish, or katsu don. Katsu is a fried pork cutlet.
Traditionally, most Japanese ate little or no meat, so the dish was developed after the Meiji era when Japan was opened to the wider world. A don, however, just means rice bowl, so a katsu don is a rice bowl with a katsu (and usually vegetables and egg) on top. If you live in Japan, you can probably find prepared katsu in your freezer section, in ether minced or tenderloin. There are two types of katsu, one using the fatty cut, and the other lean. If you’re in a hurry feel free to fry up a quick katsu and throw it on some rice with an egg for a quick meal. If you have a little more time, here’s a recipe from scratch.
- 1 pkg pork tenderloin
- freshly (hot) cooked rice
- vegetables (1 piman, 1/2 carrot, 1/4 onion, garlic, mushrooms)
- cornstarch (optional)
- panko (bread crumbs)
- vegetable oil
- soy sauce
- 2 large eggs
- seasoning (salt, pepper, and garlic)
The first thing you’ll want to do is set some rice cooking. You want fresh, hot rice so that it will help cook the egg you’re going to add later. Prepare one serving of rice for each katsu don you intend to prepare.
You can use just about any kind of white meat you like. I prefer lean meat so that’s what I bought. In my local super there was a small package of two thin (about 2 cm) pre-tenderized pork cutlets. I trimmed the excess fat. Of course, most Japanese chefs would opt to keep the fat on. Lightly season the pork with salt and pepper and a little garlic if you like.
Prepare your vegetables. I selected vegetables I had on hand. You can add any you’d like. Simply cut them finely before hand, then set them simmering in a fry pan with a little olive oil. The video doesn’t show this, but you will want to add the mushrooms about 5 minutes after the other vegetables since they’ll cook faster.
Timing is important here since you want everything to finish just before the katsu is done frying. You can cook the vegetables on low heat to give yourself time.
Prep four plates or bowls. Tupperware works great here. One should have corn starch (you can use flour instead), one flour, one a beaten egg, and one the panko. Add a little bit of salt and pepper to the egg to season it.
In a pan (preferably one for the purpose with a thermometer), put oil on medium heat until it gets to 150*C then turn to low.
Take your pork cutlets and dredge them in corn starch, being sure to get the sides, then dredge in the egg, flour, egg, and finally panko. If you’re only making one or two katsu don’t use the whole package of katsu or flower. You’ll only need enough to cover the pork.
When your oil gets to 160*C gently place your breaded pork into the oil. Be careful not to burn yourself. Keep the heat on low, your oil temp will probably fall to about 140 which is where you’ll keep it. Most packages will suggest a higher temp, but you want to cook it low and slow for the extra crunch. Keep an eye on your vegetables and remove them from heat when they’re cooked through but not soggy. If you’ve timed things right, your rice should be done. You can leave it in a rice cooker to stay warm, or in its pan.
Add a splash of soy sauce to your vegetables.
Turn the katsu in the oil with long hashi (chopsticks) every few minutes. Try not to pierce the breading. They will probably take about 10 minutes, but you’ll want to let them cook at around 140 until they are golden brown. When the color starts to turn brown on the inside (not the panko), turn the heat up just a little so that the oil goes back up to 160.
Prep your other egg in a small bowl. Get your don (bowls) ready, and scoop a serving of rice, and place the hot vegetables over. Add a little more soy sauce over top.
Take the katsu out when they are done. You can put them in an oil rack to help remove oil (healthier) or put them right onto a cutting tray (more oil, more delicious, less healthy). Either way, cut the katsu into hashi-sized pieces and place them immediately over the rice. Pour the raw egg over each bowl and serve.
**You may be tempted to use the left over egg from dredging. That egg touched raw pork, and while the egg will cook over the steamed rice and katsu, you’re safer using a fresh egg. The raw egg will cook, if you timed things correctly, but you use a raw egg in food at your own risk.
Unlike most of my previous Japanese food posts, I’ve never seen this made before. It’s a favorite of mine that I’ve had for lunch countless times, but I can’t say if my recipe is authentic or not. Likely, it’s a decent take (and a slightly healthier version) of a not so traditional classic. I hope you enjoy it.
One last thing. If you’d like to add a bit more flavor, you can add ton katsu sauce to the vegetables or on top of the pork. It’s a semi-sweet sauce common on a rice-bowl free version of the dish.