Friday, October 24, 2008

Recipe: Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu Sauce

I remember the first time I ever ate chicken katsu. It was at a small Japanese restaurant called "Shogun" in Newton, Massachusetts. Shogun does it in a nice traditional "bento style" in which the meal is served in a lacquered box with all the components of the meal fitting neatly into their own compartments. Over the years I had Shogun's version a number of times and I was never disappointed. The Shogun also serves damn fine sushi and tempura. Check them out if you're ever in Newton, you won't be disappointed.

The second place I ever had chicken katsu was in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was staying in Waikiki in Hawaii and a friendly tour guide directed me to a little hole-in-the-wall called "Irifune's" on Kapahulu street just past the Honolulu Zoo. So one day my wife and I made the long walk to the restaurant from our hotel. Our tour guide had given us the lowdown so we knew what to expect when we arrived. I remember liking Irifune's for several reasons:

1.) A car had driven through the front door a few days before we went to dine there and it still looked like it had happened on the day we arrived. The interior was eclectic and funky with old ship models and a fish pond with real fish and plastic plants in the dining room.

2.) The food was inexpensive.

3.) The katsu was gigantic and delicious.

4.) The ahi maki sushi rolls were the size of hockey pucks.

Hockey pucks I tell you! HOCKEY PUCKS!

I haven't been back to Irifune's but I hope it is still there when I am back in that neck of woods.

Upon returning home from Hawaii I did a little research and learned how to make this dish and the accompanying sauce. It's been a number of years and katsu's popularity with my family and friends has kept it in the heavy rotation section of my cooking repertoire. The dish gets its signature crunchiness from Japanese panko bread crumbs. There was a time when I used to bring a year's supply home from Hawaii. Globalization being what it is though, it is now relatively common on grocery store shelves.

The crunch of panko is a key element to what makes chicken katsu so good. The real deal sealer however is the tonkatsu sauce! It's kind of hard to describe if you've never had it. It's kind of like a barbeque sauce but not quite. There are Asian elements and flavors to it that make it different and uniquely delicious. For the record, it's just not katsu without the crunch of panko and the sweet tanginess of tonkatsu sauce!

Unlike panko bread crumbs, it is hard to come across tonkatsu sauce in most grocery stores. I'm going to recommend you make your own and of course I've included the recipe below. However, if you'd rather buy your tonkastu sauce I'm going to recommend Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce as a Product I Love. It's the ONLY Tonkatsu sauce offered in the Chop Onions, Boil Water Kitchen Outlet Store and that's for good reason. I've tried a variety of tonkatsu sauces over the years and Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce is my number one choice, hands-down. I often make my own, but if I don't have the time I've always got a bottle of Bulldog in my fridge. My daughters even use it on their chicken nuggets!

This is a simple recipe that everyone seems to love. Give it a shot, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Chicken Katsu (see tonkatsu sauce recipe below)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Enough peanut oil to fry cutlets in (about 1/2" to 1" deep)
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 cup of all purpose flour
2 eggs (beaten)
2 TBS milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry.

Using glancing blows, pound each breast half with a flat faced tenderizing mallet until the cutlet is uniformly a 1/4" to 3/8" thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Continue doing this with the rest of the chicken.

Put the beaten egg and milk in a wide shallow bowl. Place the panko and flour in their own separate dishes.

Heat the peanut oil in a high sided pan and bring it up to frying temperature.

Dredge the cutlet in the flour then coat in the beaten egg. Allow the excess egg to drain off and then dredge in the panko flakes until well coated.

Place the coated cutlet in the hot oil and cook turning once, you want it golden brown on both sides. Be sure the chicken is cooked through.

Allow excess oil to drain off.

Cut into manageable parallel pieces, (see photo).

Dress the chicken with tonkatsu sauce and serve with steamed white rice.

Tonkatsu sauce

1/2 cup of ketchup
8 tsp soy sauce
8 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
8 tsp sugar
8 tsp yellow mustard
4 tsp sake
4 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp of garlic powder

Prepare the tonkatsu sauce at least several hours before you plan on cooking the katsu.

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together until well combined. Place the finished sauce in the refrigerator to chill and allow the flavors to meld and heighten until needed.

Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu Sauce from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk


  1. I LOVE Tonkatsu sauce, and have never seen a recipe for it before. I can't wait to try yours. Great post, thanks!
    I'd have loved to see the Hockey Pucks :)

  2. It is a good sauce. I had found it online originally and made some adjustments to where I like it. I hope you try it and that you enjoy it. Please let me know either way! Feedback is always good!

  3. Holy macaroni!
    I call that globalization!
    Being French and living in Japan, I discover that japanese food terms are everywhere.
    But what surprises me most is panko!
    I doubt it would sell in France as we used dried bread leftovers back home...
    Now do you like katsu with pork, the "original" copy of the "original" recipe for veal schnitzel (Austria)?
    By the way "katsu" means "cutlets" for short in Jpaanese!
    Cheers and all that!

  4. Hello and thanks for your comment. I like katsu with pork. I'll also be adding a recipe for donburi in the future. It is one of my wife's home favorites.

    I'm not sure what you mean concerning the panko? We use regular bread crumbs here as well (homemade and prepared), but I find panko really is a different thing altogether.

    I've also had schnitzel, but again I find katsu with chicken or pork to be different enough to be its own thing, no?

    Thanks again for your comment!

    1. As a member of the USAF I spent three years in Fussa, very close to Tokyo. The tonkatsu restaurants we frequented occasionally gave the diner a grinding bowl and sesame seeds. You ground the seeds, then ladled the tonkatsu into it from a communal pot. As above, I have found Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce in Asian markets and it is the closest in taste to what I had in Japan.

      Finding appropriate panko in the US is kind of problematic. Progresso and a few others did not give me the correct texture. Again, find an Asian market and get them there. There is also a brand called Sushi Chef that is excellent. The black box is labeled "Japanese bread flakes".

      The same kind of restaurant also offered what they called ebi-maki. Ebi translates to prawns and maki means rolled. A truly jumbo shrimp or large prawn is wrapped in a thin layer of toasted nori, then wrapped with a thin piece of pork cutlet. Then the usual dredging and frying. (Heavy sigh. I really miss honest Japanese rice.)

  5. What a great post! Thanks for all the great info. Especially the part about the Ebi-Maki! That sounds like a definite will-try in the future!