Everyone has their special go-to meal and mine is chicken katsu. This is one of the very few dishes I can make without a recipe. In fact, I never even had a recipe for it.
I started making this years ago in Japan and my dear friend Carla taught me. At that time I could barely make toast so this was all sorts of challenging for me. However, Carla was very patient, even when I called her 100 times with the same question. I owe a lot of my cooking skills to Carla, so every time I make this dish I fondly think of her.
Almost everything in this recipe comes from things I have on hand in my pantry, but everyone stocks their kitchen differently, so you might not have everything, but you should have most.
Panko, or Japanese breadcrumbs, used to be rather hard to find, but now seem available in almost every grocery store in the Asian food section. I am seeing them used more and more on the Food Network, so I am assuming they are readily available. Panko is made from bread without crusts and tends to be lighter, crispier, and crunchier than western bread crumbs. They are more coarsely ground than western bread crumbs and tend to absorb less grease and stay crispier longer. They also have a more flake-like quality. When you fry with Panko, the result is lighter than with western breadcrumbs that hold on to the grease. Panko is not particularly flavorful, but absorbs or compliments the flavor of your food. I love it for breading food and it's also tasty on top of casseroles drizzled with butter.
Tonkastu sauce is used as a dipping sauce with this recipe. "Ton" means pork and "katsu" is cutlet. This recipe originated as pork cutlets and works just fine with pork. However, I have always preferred it with chicken. I can buy this sauce easily in San Francisco, but I am not sure you can get it everywhere. It's a kind of thick Worcestershire sauce that uses pureed apples as a principal ingredient. It is not at all tangy like barbeque sauce and has a very pleasing unique flavor. If you can't find it in your local store you can order it online or try one of the numerous recipes online for it.
For me, the key to making this correctly is pounding the chicken to about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick and heating the oil to the right temperature - about 350° F. Be careful, the oil takes much longer to heat up than one would think.
I always serve this with white rice, miso soup and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). You can really skip the tsukemono, but you need the rice and the miso soup is really nice and is another easy to find staple in the Asian food section.
- Vegetable oil (about 32 oz.)
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 eggs - beaten
- 2 cups Panko
- Tonkatsu sauce
- Prepared white rice
- In a large skillet preheat the vegetable oil to 350° over medium high heat. You should have about 1 1/2 - 2 inches of oil. (This takes about 15 minutes)
- Put a large piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board and place chicken in the right half. Fold the left half over the chicken.
- Using a mallet (or other item) pound out the chicken to about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Pound from the middle out to the side
- Place flour, eggs and panko into separate bowls.
- Creating an assembly line, coat the chicken breast in flour, then egg then panko. Use one had for the dry ingredients and the other for the eggs
- When the oil is hot enough, place the two breast of chicken at a time gently into the oil using tongs. (Don't do this with you hand. Been there. Done that. Learned a lesson.)
- Cook chicken about 3 - 4 minutes or until golden brown. (If you have less oil you are going to need to turn the chicken over. Also, the chicken does continue to cook when you take it out so the key is "golden")
- Place chicken on paper towels to drain.
- Cut chicken into 1/2 inch strips and place over white rice.
- Drizzle a bit of Tonkastsu sauce over the chicken for a dramatic look.
- Serve with a dipping bowl of Tonkatsu sauce, miso soup and a huge portion of white rice. If you have it, a bit of tsukemono would be awesome.
This breading works on almost every meat and is amazing on oysters. I went on a huge deep-fried oyster kick in Japan and served it with a simple dipping sauce of jarred salsa and sour cream. YUM!
Boy this sure makes me miss Carla. I think I need to email that woman right now!