Dining to Cook # 15: Tonkatsu in Japan

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Luxury tonkatsu — two words I would’ve never thought would go together. On a recent, first ever trip to Japan, there was no meal I looked forward to more than this porky wonder.

In Japan, there’s an abundance of specialty restaurants – sushi restaurant, ramen restaurant, curry restaurant, and so forth. Butagumi is a tonkatsu restaurant but more than that, an incredibly high-quality-pork centric spot in Tokyo.

Each meal is served like a set meal, with miso soup, cabbage salad, rice, and pickles.

The best pork from all different prefectures of Japan, with varying tastes (rich / flavorful / lean) are represented and carefully coated in panko – fried to crispy, flaky perfection.

 A small feast!

Each meal is served like a set meal, with miso soup, cabbage salad, rice, and pickles.

Tonkatsu is presented over a wire rack to keep it crispy.

There’s so much thought and care put into cooking the tonkatsu that they also present it over a wire rack to keep it crispy.

At home, I like to make tonkatsu with really good, high quality pork too — usually well-fatted shoulder cuts from Llano Seco. I find that salting the pork overnight not only brings out the porky flavor but also keeps the meat juicy, like a dry brine.

Well-fatted shoulder cuts from Llano Seco

While frying at home doesn’t yield the same flaky results as the perfectly fried ones at Butagumi in Tokyo, using the best pork available does wonders, and holds me over until the next visit.