On Change: Katsu-Don


As a child I didn’t like change. A fairly serious, determined young thing, I was very black and white in my thinking – sometimes literally. I remember being given an elephant to colour in at nursery school and whilst the other children coloured their elephants pink, red, yellow, blue or a combination of the four (shock, horror), I took a lead pencil and very carefully shaded in my elephant grey (all within the lines, of course). When asked if I wanted another colour I remember telling my teacher rather firmly and with some derision – she should’ve known this for herself, after all – “no. Elephants are grey.”

When I was due to start a new school year, every year without fail, I would start to feel an overwhelming nausea as I approached the school gates with my mother. There was nothing wrong with me but nerves would take their toll every time – fear about who would be my new classmates, about who would be my new teacher, whether or not they’d like me, where my classroom would be, why it had to be different every year, why it had to change. Of course, as soon as I entered the building and had read my name on the list of classes whilst clutching my mother’s hand tightly, I’d merrily skip off to class, all anxieties forgotten and ready to start anew, barely even remembering to wave goodbye to my bemused parent.

I’m somewhat more relaxed now (though if you give me a picture of an elephant I’ll still colour it in grey) and I’ve realised – somewhat reluctantly – that change is inevitable. Don’t fight it, just embrace it – it’ll make your life a whole lot easier.

I seem to be facing constant change in my life at the moment – maybe that’s the reason for my fresh outlook and zen-like approach to it. I’ve spent so long stubbornly trying to hold onto many things I should’ve let go of a long time ago and of course all that does is depress you and waste a lot of time and energy but now I’m ready to move on – summer’s coming and big things are planned for the rest of this year; for this new chapter of my life.

I didn’t like katsu-don when I first had it – though it seemed like something that would work perfectly on paper (tonkatsu, egg, onion and rice, all in a bowl together for ease), it made the tonkatsu crust soggy and that was simply something I didn’t like.

However, as with all things, over time and further exposure to it, I started to not just like katsu-don but to love it and when I found out just how easy it was to make for myself (if somewhat time-consuming) it fast became a staple in my repertoire.

Of course, if you can’t be bothered with the dashi/egg step you can always just eat the tonkatsu with plain rice and Bulldog sauce (if you don’t like Bulldog sauce then consider this me disowning you immediately).

Serves 1

For the rice:
200 g short-grain rice
Water (to wash and cook the rice)

For the tonkatsu:
1 boneless pork loin chop
Plain flour (to coat the pork)
1 egg, beaten lightly
Panko or breadcrumbs (to coat the pork)
Vegetable oil

For the katsu-don:
1 onion, sliced thinly
170 ml water
1 – 2 tsps dashi powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsps mirin
2 tsps sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly

Special equipment:
x1 small pan (for rice)
x1 frying pan (for tonkatsu)
x1 wok + lid (for katsu-don)

1. Start the rice first – wash a few times in cold water until the water runs clear then add enough water so that when you rest your little finger on top of the rice the water comes up to just below the first joint. Put it on the hob over a medium-high heat and when it begins to boil furiously turn the heat down to the lowest setting and place the lid on. Steam for about 20 – 25 mins or until cooked through, then remove from the heat. Begin the other steps as the rice is cooking.
2. Take the pork loin and, using a sharp knife, make a few cuts in the fat and sinew – this will help to relax the meat. Using the blunt edge of the knife, gently tenderise and flatten the cutlet to about a 2 cm thickness.
3. In three separate bowls place the plain flour, the beaten egg and the panko or breadcrumbs and then dip the prepared pork chop in each, starting with the flour and ending with the panko, making sure it’s well coated.
4. In a frying pan (make sure it isn’t too shallow), pour about 4 – 5 cm of vegetable oil and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot enough that a breadcrumb dropped into the oil sizzles, place the coated pork chop into the oil, turn down the heat to medium and fry for a few minutes on each side (about 10 mins in total or so), using tongs to turn the chop. When cooked through remove the tonkatsu to a plate lined with paper kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil. When a little cooler, carefully cut the tonkatsu into 2 cm pieces.
5. In the wok add the water, dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar and whisk together over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft, turning the heat down to medium-low. You can cover it with the lid for a few minutes to help the onions along – as you can see from the above photo my wok doesn’t have a lid but I find that my Le Creuset crockpot lid does the trick.
6. When the onions are soft, carefully transfer the cooked tonkatsu to the wok and lay on top of the onions and liquid mixture (which should’ve reduced a bit by now). Pour the beaten egg on top of the tonkatsu, turn the heat up to medium-high and put the lid on for up to 30 seconds (use your common sense and remove the lid sooner or keep it on for longer, depending on how cooked you like your egg). As you can see from the above photo I decided to add an extra egg which I didn’t beat – it’s really up to you. Remove the lid and turn off the heat.
7. To assemble: place the cooked rice in a bowl and carefully transfer the tonkatsu, egg, onion and liquid mixture on top of the rice. Serve immediately with miso soup and enjoy the heck out of it.

I’ll be back soon – don’t worry, no matter what changes I’ll never turn my back on this little blog of mine.

Until next time, peace and love.

Jax x

6 Responses to “On Change: Katsu-Don”

  1. Paula Says:

    I just saw your tweet that you are sick again and I’m sorry to hear that. Been a hell of a few (several) months for you and I hope that things take a turn for the better for you real soon. ‘Til it does (and it will) you have the right attitude. Though most of us don’t do well with change, especially unexpected & unplanned change, accepting it for what it is and finding a way to make the best of it does go a long way to having the change eventually work for you.
    Your pork dish looks and sounds wonderful Jax! Take good care of you xo.

  2. Mango Ginger Says:

    I just discovered your blog, it’s lovely. It really appealed to me because I’m a Londoner living in Bangkok – plenty in there that I related to! Come visit some time: http://www.mango-ginger.blogspot.com

  3. Nancy/SpicieFoodie Says:

    Congrats on the Foodbuzz top 9! These looks incredible.

  4. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking Says:

    Gorgeous meal — I share your less-than-enthusiastic feelings about change. I wish things were a bunch more stable for you lately! <3

  5. sophia Says:

    There are parts of my life in which I embrace change, and parts in which I don’t. Dear Jackie, I hope you have peace within you each and every day, even in the face of difficulties and discomfort.

    The katsudon looks freaking incredible. Perfect golden crisp.

    <3 to you!

  6. Marc @ NoRecipes Says:

    I was also the kid that colored the elephant grey within the lines. I think I got into my first fight ever with some kid at summer camp coming over and using a purple crayon on my sky. Fast forward a bunch of years, and I’m probably more likely to leave the elephant uncolored and use every color in the rainbow outside the lines:-) People change.

    Your katsudon looks great. I actually love the way the breading soaks up the flavors of the dashi, but if you want your katsu to be half crisp, add the egg first, then top with the katsu and don’t cover it with a lid. The egg will be a little runny on top, but that’s also part of the joy of katsudon:-)

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