TONKATSU (豚カツ, とんかつ, トンカツ)

Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ, or トンカツ), invented in the late 19th Century , is a popular dish in Japan. It consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet one to two centimeters thick and sliced to bite sized pieces, generally served with shredded cabbage.

It is most commonly eaten with a type of thick Japanese Worcestershire sauce called Tonkatsu Sauce (tonkatsu sōsu) (トンカツソース), often simply known as sōsu ("sauce"), and often with a bit of spicy yellow karashi (Japanese mustard) and perhaps a slice of lemon. Some people like to use soy sauce instead. In Nagoya and surrounding areas, miso katsu - tonkatsu eaten with a miso-based sauce, is a speciality.

Diners ordering tonkatsu sometimes have a choice of pork fillet (ヒレ) or pork loin (ロース) cut. The meat is usually salted, peppered, dipped in flour, beaten egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) before being deep fried. Prices for a tonkatsu vary from 198 yen for a pre-cooked tonkatsu available in a supermarket to over 5000 yen in an expensive restaurant. The finest tonkatsu is said to be made from kuro buta (black pig) from Kagoshima prefecture, in southern Japan.

It was originally considered a type of yōshoku - Japanese versions of western food, invented in the late 19th / early 20th Century to fit Japanese tastes, and was called katsu-retsu ("cutlet") or simply katsu. Early katsu-retsu was usually beef; the pork version, similar to today's tonkatsu, is said to have been first served in 1890 in a western food restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo. The term "tonkatsu" ("pork katsu") was coined in the 1930's. Tonkatsu has Japanized over the years more so than other yōshoku and is today usually served with rice, miso soup and tsukemono in the style of washoku (traditional Japanese food) and eaten with chopsticks. Recently, some establishments have even taken to serving tonkatsu with the more traditionally Japanese grated daikon and ponzu instead of tonkatsu sauce.

Tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando), or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē). It is sometimes served with egg on a big bowl of rice as katsudon - an informal one-bowl lunchtime dish.

Variations on tonkatsu may be made by sandwiching an ingredient like cheese or shiso leaf between the meat, and then breading and frying. For the calorie conscious, konnyaku is sometimes sandwiched between the meat. And in Waseda, Tokyo, a restaurant serves a tonkatsu with a bar of chocolate sandwiched inside, sometimes compared to a Western creation: the Deep fried Mars bar.

The dish is also associated with a Japanese riddle. A Pig chef and a Horse chef compete at making Tonkatsu. Tonkatsu can also mean “pig wins”. If the dish tastes good, the proper reply is Uma katta (tastes good) which can also mean “horse wins”. Which one wins: the Pig or the Horse?

Truth is, the riddle has no answer.