Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded (use mandoline or a good sharp knife)

4 1-inch thick center cut pork chops

1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg beaten

1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

oil for frying

Tonkatsu sauce

Soak shredded cabbage in a bowl of cold ice water for an hour. This prevents the cabbage from wilting and dilutes some of the stronger sulfur odors. Trim any fat or silverskin from the pork. Tenderize the cutlets until they are about 3/4-inch thick. I don’t have a meat tenderizer, but Marc said you could use a chef’s knife by striking the pork in a drumming motion across the surface and repeat at 90° from the first direction to create a crosshatch pattern. Season both sides of each piece of pork with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Pat the flour on to ensure a good distribution. Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and the panko crumbs in another shallow bowl next to it. Heat about 3/4-inch of oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. For each cutlet of pork, dip it in the egg to coat completely, then dip it in the panko to coat completely (both sides). Press panko onto the cutlet to make sure you get good adhesion. When the oil is hot (it should sizzle when you toss a panko crumb in), carefully place the crusted pork cutlet into the oil. Let fry until the bottom is golden brown and then turn the cutlet over to fry the other side. Marc actually measures the internal temperature of the pork to 137°F in the thickest section to determine when it’s done. I just go by color of the cutlet. Remove the cutlet from the oil and set on a cooling rack or paper towels to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the tonkatsu or leave whole. Serve with drained cabbage, steamed rice, and some tonkatsu sauce. Serves 4.

JAPANESE GYOZA WITH SPICY DIPPING SAUCE

Gyoza:

2 cups cabbage, shredded or very finely chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

2 stalks celery, minced (yes, minced.)

2 leeks, white and green parts, minced

   *Update: after hearing from readers, I forgot to mention that Japanese leeks can be somewhat smaller than American grown. Plan for about 3/4 to 1 full cup, depending on your taste.

1 pound ground chicken

2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder (about 3 minced fresh cloves)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Mirin 

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon togarashi (Japanese chili spice. Substitute red pepper flakes if you can’t find it)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

40-50 gyoza wrappers (or egg roll wrappers cut into 4” diameter circles)

small bowl of water

salt and oil, for cooking

Dipping Sauce:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon togarashi

3/4 teaspoon mirin

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 green onion, green part minced

Assembly:

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss with a few large pinches of salt. Allow this to sit for about 15 minutes. While this sits prepare the dipping sauce and store in refrigerator until the gyoza are ready. Squeeze out any excess liquid with paper towels and return to the bowl. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the wrappers. With your clean fingers, mix very well. Wash your hands and prepare the wrappers. Work one by one to prevent wrappers from drying out. For a 4” diameter wrapper, place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center. Dip your finger into the water and trace around the outer edge of the wrapper circle.  

Folding:

Thinking of the wrapper as a clock, bring 12 and 6 together and pinch lightly together. Hold that center pinch with your left fingers, and use your right hand to pleat the right side of the wrapper. Turn gyoza 180° and repeat the pleat on the current right side. Place on cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the filling and wrappers, until you run out of one. 

Cooking:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of canola or olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add a few gyoza to the skillet, setting them on their flat bottoms, with the pleated edges pointed up. Make sure to not add too many or they’ll be overcrowded and will be soggy. Pan fry for about 3 minutes, until the bottoms are brown and bubbly. If you like crunch, turn them on one “side” and pan fry for another minute or so to crisp the side. Add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and quickly cover with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat to low and steam for about 4 minutes. The gyoza are ready to eat when the dumpling is plumped up and shiny from the steaming. Just to be safe, cut one open to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Cook in batches if you’re making a lot of the gyoza. 

Serve immediately with dipping sauce. 

The gyoza freeze wonderfully and will keep in your freezer until you eat them all (so, about a week!) The sauce will keep in an airtight container for a few weeks. To cook from frozen, follow same cooking directions as above, just steam for about a minute longer to ensure the chicken is cooked through.

Takoyaki

Now, of course, the reason it took me so long to make this recipe is because I had to source a Takoyaki pan, but with the magic of the internet it was easily done. There’s also an electric Takoyaki pan if you want to make your life easier. The rest of the ingredients can be found in Japanese supermarkets or ordered online.

Serves 6

Takoyaki batter:

1 cup cake flour

1 large egg

2 cups dashi, cold

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Mirin

Fillings:

1 cup diced cooked octopus (or shrimp..)

Tempura scraps (optional)

4 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup red pickled ginger (Beni shōga)

Finish:

Kewpie mayonnaise

Takoyaki sauce

Ao-nori

Bonito flakes

Red pickled ginger

Takoyaki batter:

Follow this link to make dashi.  You’ll need kombu and bonito flakes.

Start with ice cold dashi. It helps keeping the batter light.

Combine the egg, the dashi, the soy sauce and  mirin in a measuring cup.

Place the flour in a bowl and pour in the dashi mixture and mix lightly until incorporated. Do not over mix!

Cook the Takoyaki:

Place the takoyaki pan over a heat diffuser if possible, and set over medium heat.

Brush each hole with a neutral oil (I use grapeseed) to keep the takoyaki from sticking to the pan.

Pour the batter to the top of each hole. It’s okay to overfill them a little.

Immediately place a few pieces of octopus, tempura scraps (if using), sliced green onions and red pickled ginger in the batter, and keep cooking over medium heat.

Check that the batter is set at the bottom with a pick. When they come off easily but the center is still wet turn them to a 90′ angle so the liquid part slides to the bottom. Add a little more batter to fill any holes. And keep turning the takoyaki every few minutes, until you obtain perfect spheres.

Takoyaki are ready when the outside is golden brown and the inside still creamy.

Finishing:

Place the takoyaki on a serving platter while still hot and top with takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, ao-nori, red pickled ginger and bonito flakes. Serve immediately.

Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl)

Serves 2 | Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients:

Water, for boiling
1/2 lb thinly sliced beef for sukiyaki, cut into pieces
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon chopped scallion
Beni shoga

Sauce:

1 tablespoon Mizkan (Bonito Flavored) Soup Base
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Mizkan Honteri Mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon sugar

Method:

Bring a pot of water to boil. Turn off the heat and add the beef into the water, and immediately scoop them out with a strainer and set aside. DO NOT overcook the beef. Discard the water.

Mix all the ingredients in the sauce in a small bowl. Stir to combine well.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the onions and grated ginger and saute until the onion becomes soft. Add the beef and the Sauce into the skillet, stir to combine well. Stir the beef and onion a few times and turn off the heat.

Fill the rice bowls with steamed rice and top the simmered beef on top of the rice. Garnish with some chopped scallion and beni shoga. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:

  1. By scalding the beef with hot boiling water, the beef is clean with no white foamy bits. You will notice that the water will turn brownish with residue in the water.
  2. If you can’t find thinly sliced beef, buy the ribeye, freeze it and slice with very sharp knife. The key is to slice the beef really thin.

Chicken Teriyaki

Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 10 Minute | Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken thighs, deboned, with or without skin

Teriyaki Sauce:

1/3 cup Mitsukan Mirin Sweet Cooking Seasoning
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar

Method:

1. Lightly season both sides of the chicken thighs with a little salt and pepper.
2. Add the Mitsukan Mirin, soy sauce, and sugar into a sauce pan. Bring it to boil.
3. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until the teriyaki sauce reduces to a thicker consistency. Make sure you don’t over simmer or the sauce might become too thick or caramelized.
4. In the meantime, heat up a skillet or pan on medium-high heat and add a little oil.
5. Pan-fry the chicken thighs until both sides are nicely browned and cooked through. The skin should be pan-fried to a shattering crispy texture.

6. Turn off the heat, transfer the chicken out. Let cool. Slice the chicken thighs into pieces and drizzle the teriyaki sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately with steamed rice.