Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
I can’t resist ordering tonkatsu when I see it on a menu. These Japanese-style fried pork cutlets are so crispy and delicious, yet they are also so simple that I figured this dish would be a good candidate to make at home.
I was right: This dish was fast, easy and incredibly satisfying. I kept things close to the versions I’ve had served in restaurants, making one minor adaptation. Usually, this crunchy pork is served with shredded cabbage and maybe a wedge of lemon on the side. I’ve taken things a step further here and turned the cabbage into a simple slaw to bring in a bit of extra moisture. This can be made in advance, as it keeps well—and even improves—overnight.
Other variations I’ve enjoyed pair the cutlets with rice, Japanese curry or a fried egg on top for extra decadence. You can experiment with sides or swap in chicken for the pork.
However you plan to enjoy the crispy cutlets, katsu sauce—made from tomatoes, other fruits and vegetables, a mix of spices, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar—is the key element that amps up the flavor. It’s relatively easy to find ready-made in many grocery stores, but you can use ponzu sauce as an alternative. You can also mix a pared-down home variation by adding soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to ketchup.
The sauce is a bit on the sweet side, and I knew that would be a big factor in finding the right wine pairing: A little bit of sweetness would be needed for a balanced match. An off-dry German Riesling from the Mosel immediately came to mind, in part because the dish resembles schnitzel, a classic match with Riesling. I also decided to try a ripe, just off-dry South African Chenin Blanc.
With the sauce, both wines immediately came across as drier. With its notes of bright citrus, white peach and ginger spice, the Riesling was deliciously refreshing—great for a warm, sunny day.
Also quite refreshing, the Chenin Blanc had ripe, round notes of stone fruits, melon and beeswax and a hint of spice. The wine’s texture actually felt more streamlined alongside the food, and a little minerality came out as well. Additionally, the wine spoke to the toasty notes of the fried pork and took those flavors up a notch, which put this wine over the line as the pick of the day.
Pair with Man Vintners Chenin Blanc Coastal Region Free-run 2016 (87 points, $12).
Alternative pairing: Loosen Bros. Riesling Qualitätswein Mosel Dr. L 2016 (87 points, $12).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes
Total time: 40 to 45 minutes
Approximate food costs: $15
1. Mix together the cabbage, carrots and rice vinegar and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.
2. Arrange the pork cutlets on a cutting board. Pound with a meat mallet until the cutlets are about 1/4 inch thick. Season the pork with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Arrange the flour, whisked eggs and panko bread crumbs in shallow bowls. Dredge the pork cutlets through the flour, dip in the eggs and coat well with the panko crumbs.
4. Fill a large skillet with cooking oil, about 1/3 to 1/2 inch deep. Heat on high until the oil is shimmering (or reaches 350° F). Add the pork, working in batches if needed, and cook for about 1 minute, then flip and cook on the second side for 1 minute. Flip again and cook for another minute on each side, or until the pork is deep golden-brown. Transfer the pork to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt. Allow the pork to rest for 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Accompany the pork with the simple slaw, katsu sauce and lemon slices, if using. Serves 4.