Jan 1, 2016
It’s not just a breaded piece of meat deep-fried to crispy perfection. Katsu is also eaten by the Japanese before an important exam or game as the word “katsu” also means “to win”. We find out what makes a winning piece of katsu.
The Japanese katsu is similar to the schnitzel – a piece of boneless meat, coated with flour, beaten eggs and breaded crumbs, and then fried. It is most definitely one of Japan’s favourite Western-style eats. Served with rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage, the katsu is a meal guaranteed to hit the spot, every time.
Although the most popular types of katsu are pork and chicken, the earliest katsu was actually made with beef. It was during the Meiji era (1868 – 1912), with the influx of Western influences into the country, that pork was introduced into the mix. In 1899, a restaurant named Rengatei in Tokyo made the first tonkatsu (pork katsu). With that, other variations soon emerged – chicken, fish, seafood, even vegetables. When ingredients other than chicken, pork or beef are used, the dish is called “furai” instead. An example would be ebi-furai (fried breaded prawns), a specialty of the city of Nagoya.
There are many ways to enjoy katsu. Tonkatsu is commonly eaten with a thick brown sauce called tonkatsu sauce. In Nagoya, it is eaten with a miso-based sauce, thus earning the name, “miso katsu”. An immensely popular way to also savour the katsu is with Japanese curry – katsu curry.
As palates become more sophisticated and discerning, restaurants are also inventing new ways to make eating the popular home-cooked staple a gourmet experience.
In the following pages, three chefs from renowned restaurants in Singapore will take us on a mouth-watering journey into the katsu universe.
(Text DEBORAH TAN Photography Raymond Toh/Vineyard Production)