29 March 2012

Elizabeth Andoh's Game Changing Tonkatsu

If you were asked to think of one Japanese food, what would come to mind? Sushi, raw fish, tempura, tofu? That's what comes to my mind.  With Japanese restaurants and Sushi bars popping up all over the world these days Japanese food is no longer considered mysterious. In fact, more and more we are recognizing Japanese food as one of the healthier cuisines. L'il Burnt Toast, the future dietitian, insists on eating sushi like it was going out of style!!!! The traditional Japanese diet is impressively low in cholesterol, fat, and calories, and high in fiber. No wonder residents of Japan have the highest longevity rate.

When it comes to describing Japanese cuisine in a few words, "natural"  and "harmony" best fits the description. Many devotees of Japanese food speak of the importance of clean flavours and simplicity. Japanese cuisine has developed over the past 2,000 years with strong influences from both China and Korea. But it is only in the last 300-400 years that all the influences have come together to form what nowadays can be described as Japanese cuisine.

What better way to introduce Japanese food, culture and cuisine than with our 41st Game Changer Elizabeth Andoh, the English-language authority on the subject.  She was born and raised in the United States, although, Japan has been her home for more than four decades. 

Elizabeth had a background in Anthropology, but visited Japan in the early 1960's and was captivated by the world of "culinary endeavour" as she puts it.  
She did her formal culinary training at the Yanagihara Kinsaryu School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine, in Tokyo.

With her love for the art of cooking it was inevitable that she would begin her own culinary arts program, A Taste of Culture in 1972, combining spicy tidbits of food lore with practical tips and skill-building lessons on how to prepare Japanese food. Her programs are conducted in Tokyo and Osaka and offer a unique opportunity for foreign residents and visitors from overseas to explore and enjoy Japan's culture through its food. When you have a moment you may find this article very interesting. 

She shares her knowledge and passion for the food culture of Japan through her many cookbooks on Japanese cuisine, including "Kansha" and "Washoku."  These books are a collection of recipes where she takes us on a journey through a cuisine that is rich in history and as handsome as it is healthy. Her mission is to get people to think differently about how they feed themselves.
Food does more than nourish the body, it also tells the story of culture... Elizabeth Andoh  "Kibo: Brimming with Hope"
Elizabeth Andoh deserves her rightful place on "the list" of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers.  Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it has been an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters and those we admire with a group of dedicated ladies. There have even been a few successful bloggers on "the list". We have checked out books from the library, borrowed cookbooks from friends, surfed the Internet and browsed our own cookbook collections seeking that one recipe that will highlight that weeks outstanding woman. This group is spearheaded by my favourite well-travelled blogger Mary of One Perfect Bite who back in June 2011 invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. It is still not too late to join in in 2012.

What have we been up to this week with our 41st Game Changer........

Susan of The Spice Garden 
Heather of Girlichef - Homemade Tofu
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Matcha Muffins
Sarah - Everything InThe Kitchen Sink - Rice with Edamame

Like all other cuisines, Japanese food is a product of modern culture. For this challenge I brought to the table Tonkatsu, the traditional Japanese dish served since the late 19th century which was originally inspired by Western cooking. It is not one of the refined dishes I have been mentioning but there is harmony in flavours. It has enjoyed phenomenal success in recent years, with more and more people worldwide flocking to their local eateries to order this wickedly wonderful taste of Japan. 

Tonkatsu is a classic family-friendly dish in the Japanese yoshoku (“Western-style cuisine”) repertoire. Tonkatsu is usually pre-sliced which simply makes it easier to eat with chopsticks. The slices are then re-aligned and set at a jaunty angle against a mound of finely shredded fresh cabbage as I did here. A tuft of parsley, a wedge of tomato and/or lemon. A thick, fruity Worcestershire-like sauce called tonkatsu sosu, drizzled over cabbage and cutlets, is the usual accompaniment. On my latest foray to our local Asian supermarket I came across this Japnanese condiment and was more than willing to give it a try. I served my Tonkatsu with some steamed Jasmine rice and the traditional shredded cabbage. What I loved about this recipe is that I had almost all of the ingredients in my cupboards already! 

Before eating, say "Itadakimasu!" (ee-tah-dah-kee-mahss) which literally means "I humbly receive" and when you're done, say 'Gochisousama deshita!" (Goch-sou-sah-mah-desh-tah) which kind of means "thank you for the meal".  I also ate every grain of rice rather than be considered impolite, but hey this was too good to leave on my plate!!!!

 by Elizabeth Andoh, 2010 A Taste of Culture (Tokyo and Osaka, Japan)
  • 4 boneless pork chops, each 1/4-inch thick, weighing about 65 grams (2 ounces) 
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour or cornstarch seasoned with a pinch of sansho pepper
  • 1/2 beaten whole egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 3/4 cups panko
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying (preferably a mixture of natane and daizu abura)
  • 2 cups very finely shredded cabbage
  • tonkatsu sosu (commercially prepared spicy sauce)
To prevent unecessary curling of the meat as it fries, pierce the pork chops with the heel of your knife in several locations, especially along the rim trimmed with fat (upper left). Lightly dust the chops in the flour or cornstarch mixture. 

Dip them, one at a time, in the egg wash (upper center) and then lay them on top of the breadcrumbs. Use shoveling, scooping motions to cover the top surface with crumbs; press gently to be sure they adhere (upper right). Set aside for a few minutes. If you wish to hold for longer than 10 minutes, place on a rack and cover with paper towels, then place in a re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Breaded cutlets can be held for several hours in this fashion.
Heat the oil in your pan and follow these GUIDELINES/CLUES for DEEP FRYING:
There should be at least 1.5 inches of oil and room enough to fry 2 cutlets at once. 
Heat the oil to 375 degrees F/190 C. Test with breadcrumbs to which eggwash clings. Ideally, crumbs should sizzle and foam, but not color or burn, on the surface.  
If test crumbs sink and take more than 20 seconds to rise, the oil is not hot enough. Raise the heat source slightly and wait for 1 minute before re-testing. 
If test crumbs start to color immediately, the oil is too hot.  
Stir to cool and lower the heat source slightly.  
Fry UNDISTURBED for 2 minutes or until lightly colored at the edges. Flip and fry undisturbed for another minute. DO NOT FLIP BACK & FORTH! Check that both surfaces are a golden brown, what the Japanese call kistune iro or “fox coloured.”  
Remove to a rack lined with paper towels. Flip after 30 seconds and take paper towel with cutlet on it to a cutting board. Slice each cutlet across into 5 or 6 slices. 

BREAD CRUMBS: Some versions of tonkatsu use fine, dry crumbs that typically include honey and/or egg (baked in to the bread that is dried and pulverized). Other versions use nama panko or fresh, soft crumbs that fry up as crispy shards. Either can be used in this recipe. 
You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Scrumptious! Your tonkatsu looks really appetizing.



  2. I'd heard of Elizabeth Andoh but didn't know much about her. Thanks for this wonderful post that highlights her role in educating all of us about Japanese cuisine.

  3. This is a fabulous dish that I know our whole family would enjoy! And can I just say...my list of cooking schools to visit is getting longer by the week ;)

  4. All new and wonderful information to me! Tonkatsu looks delicious.

  5. I actually like non-sushi Japanese food better than sushi!

  6. I confess I'd never heard of Andoh before. But I so enjoyed researching her and making one of her recipes. Interesting that we both chose something fried, when most of her recipes are vegetarian. Your Tonkatsu sounds delicious, Val, and the presentation is perfect.

  7. Yummy! I can think of a couple of people who would die for this.
    Great post. Happy Friday:)

  8. Hi Val! How interesting to read about this lady! I have never heard of her and we lived in Tokyo for 3 years and had the best years of our lives! And yes, I took Japanese cooking lessons and the family suffered all my Japanese culinary efforts!!!I had actually forgotten about tonkatsu. But to this day,in our family, Japanese remains the way to go for a celebration dinner!

  9. Tonkatsu is a favorite here and this recipe is first rate. Val, the background you provided for your readers is really wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  10. Hi Val,

    What a comprehensive post. I learned so much about Eliabeth Andoh and Japanese cooking by reading it. Thanks for taking the time to provide it. I'm sure your readers will be very appreciative. Your tonkatsu looks delicious. I'm bookmarking it for future reference.

  11. I have never heard of this dish until now. I cant wait to try it!

  12. The clean flavors of Japanese food are definitely one of the things about it that appeal to me most!

  13. Beautifully written post in honor of Elizabeth Andoh. I did not know that tonkatsu was inspired by Western cooking.

  14. look absolutely nice Vall!! yumm!

  15. Interesting, I must confess that I don't know much about Japanese food, though it intrigues me. What a better way to be introduce to this exciting cuisine.

  16. Looks fantastic! I love this series of posts and cooking. I used to dabble in Japanese food - long ago, before sushi was everywhere. Really should get back into it!

  17. This dish looks so incredibly delicious…I’m sure it was wonderful! Lovely post!

  18. What an interesting post; I had never heard of her before. Personally I much prefer this recipe of tonkatsu than sushi. I have had this in a Japanese restaurant in Toronto; thank you for the recipe.

  19. Yum the Tonkatsu looks delicious! I've never had it before.

  20. Love the little lesson on Japanese phrases! I think Japanese is one of the most beautiful languages and hope to make it there one day. And when I do, I'll remember these phrases before and after each meal ;) Great choice and I'm loving how Elizabeth takes us through real traditional Japanese recipes!

  21. So interesting, Val. I'm afraid I know next to nothing about Japanese cuisine. This looks really delicious though, and I'd love to learn more. :-)

  22. I tried to post a comment yesterday and got an error message, so I hope this works today.

    I LOVE tonkatsu. It's what I order most in Japanese restaurants not being a fish or sushi person. IT's not easy to get the kind of varied cuisine this cookbook talks about. Even the "better" Japanese restaurants in this area tend to be all about sushi with teriyaki dishes for the landlubbers. You have to pay through the nose in the city for something more authentic. I suppose I really should check this cookbook out.


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