So let’s get one thing straight: I am Chinese. I am not mixed, nor am I Filipina, Hawaiian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Malaysian, or any other brand of “Oriental”. I am full-blooded Chinese. My family are from Hong Kong. This is me.
However… I think I love Japanese food more than I love Chinese food. Sorry heritage. That’s just the way the panko crumbles.
When families go out for a meal they go for Indian or Chinese, to the pub, a French restaurant, an Italian pizza and pasta joint, or some other similar convenience; the main thing is that it’s culturally different to the food you cook at home. So what do you do when you are a Chinese family? You go for Japanese.
We were practically raised on sushi and teppenyaki – Benihana was almost a weekly occurrence. I distinctly remember having to dress up for Benihana, being forced to wear itchy tights and a dress (I hated wearing dresses when I was younger, now I wear almost nothing but). The best bit was watching the chef cooking in front of you, throwing knives around, slicing things in mid-air, firing rapid Japanese at you whilst juggling a salt and pepper shaker. The second best bit was drinking your fruit punch from a straw that protruded from the belly button of a Buddha shaped receptacle. The only downside to the experience (aside from the itchy tights) was the fact that you always came away smelling of food and smoke.
Eventually we found other eateries that satisfied our craving for sushi and tasty, tasty Japanese food, and it’s a love that has stayed with me well into (semi-)adulthood. Probably one of my favourite dishes is tonkatsu, a fillet of crispy fried panko-breaded pork loin, usually served with rice and a thinly sliced cabbage “salad” (which I serve with a ginger-honey-Italian dressing; essentially a basic Italian dressing with about a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and half a teaspoon of honey, mixed together and drizzled over the salad), and, thanks to Jun, my half-Japanese bestie, since my second year of University I’ve known how to make this to satisfy the cravings. It’s ridiculously easy and ridiculously tasty, and thus has become one of my go-to recipes for when I’ve got nothing else in the house because baby, I always have the ingredients on hand for this one. I even taught my ex-housemate how to make it, and he went home and cooked it for his very British family (they’re from Yorkshire: none of this rice business, y’hear? MEAT. POTATOES. VEG. PORK FAGGOTS (I know it’s immature but: tee-hee). That’s it, alright?!) and they loved it.
Now tonkatsu is traditionally served with Bulldog Sauce and I love it – it has this fruity, tangy flavour which, to me, completes my tonkatsu dish. Jun actually hates it (but she also doesn’t really like fish, which makes me think she’s not actually half-Asian at all but AN IMPOSTER) but she does love the “fake” Bulldog that Momma Merrett makes, which consists of ketchup mixed with HP Sauce. Weirdo.
Anyway, enough about our strange eating habits. Go and make some tonkatsu already, and as you’re frying the pork loin fillet, drooling a little (try not to drool into the hot oil, eh? Not only unhygienic but also rather dangerous) and buying your real/making your fake Bulldog Sauce, think of us, betraying our heritage in our own very special way.
1 boneless pork loin fillet per person
1 egg, lightly beaten
Plain flour (for coating)
Panko (for coating)
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Japanese white rice
A handful of cabbage, finely sliced/shredded
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
Bulldog Sauce/Ketchup mixed with HP Sauce
1. Put the egg, flour and panko in separate shallow bowls/plates.
2. Using the back of a knife gently tenderise and flatten the pork fillet slightly so that your meat is about a couple of centimeters thick.
3. Coat the flattened fillet as follows: flour, egg, panko. Set aside until ready to fry.
4. Meanwhile cook your rice. If you’re like me and you’re SO ASIAN IT HURTS: use your rice cooker. If you, however, are less Asian, use the traditional saucepan and water method.
5. Time to fry your loin fillets. Pour a generous amount of vegetable oil into a large wok. Not so much that you’re deep-frying, but not so little that the loin will absorb it all instantly: you want to shallow fry these babies. Let the oil heat up – you’ll know it’s hot enough when either you stick a wooden chopstick (or spatula) into the centre and the oil bubbles around it. The more bubbles the hotter it is.
6. Leave the fillets undisturbed on each side for under a minute (but depends on the thickness of your loin fillets, so keep an eye on it) – you want your meat cooked all the way through and the panko crispy and golden.
7. When both sides have achieved golden perfection, remove from the hot oil and place on a plate covered with paper kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
8. To serve pre-slice your meat and plate alongside a generous dollop of hot rice, the cabbage and tomato “salad”, salad dressing of your choice, and Bulldog Sauce (real or fake) drizzled over your meat.
9. Consume. You may now lick your plate clean.
Mhm. Fried food. Fatty-fatty-boom-boom. Until next time, peace and love.