Tonkatsu Sauce

I recently came across a menu item from Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas ( https://www.caesars.com/content/dam/clv/Dining/Menus/Caesars-Palace%20Las%20Vegas-Dining-Menus-1.pdf ) which had katsu/pork belly tonkatsu sandwich with ‘house tonkatsu (sauce)’. I later learned from http://www.bloomberg.com/bb/newsarchive/aGC4hBsupN8A.html the house katsu sauce was a prune katsu sauce.  So I got interested in trying to make a katsu meal; but how to make the katsu sauce?

So I did a bit of research and happened to come across the article, The Great Tonkatsu Sauce Shootout @ http://tastyislandhawaii.com/2009/12/07/the-great-tonkatsu-sauce-shootout/ .  I realized I needed a standard by which  I could understand what tonkatsu sauce was ‘supposed’ to be.  So I thought, “before I do anything else, let me get a sample of the Bairin Tokusen or the ever popular Bull Dog.”

Bull Dog Tonkatsu sauce

Bull Dog Tonkatsu sauce

As it would turn out, my local HMart only had the Bull Dog.

Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce ingredient list.

Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce ingredient list.

It’s interesting to note that this sauce, listed by amount, has prune puree as one of its lesser ingredients.

Not having made katsu sauce before, I looked about for candidates to base my katsu sauce variant.  Well, Cook’s Illustrated had a version of the sauce in its original Cook’s Illustrated recipe/article of Jan 2002 that was republished here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081112082239AADLoUO

So, here’s the microbatch version –

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon water
1/4 c (2 oz) ketchup
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 t soy sauce

I tried the sauce, but it left something to be desired. Food author Hiroko Shimbo offered up her version from her book which can be found online at –  http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/tonkatsu-sauce

So, here’s the microbatch version –

  • 4 T Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins)
  • 2 T sugar (to be replaced with prune puree)
  • 2 T shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 2 T tomato ketchup (Heinz)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smooth French or Colman’s mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Sauce ingredients

Sauce ingredients

So to use prunes in the sauce as was suggested by the Nobu menu item, I thought I’d replace the sugar with 2 tablespoons of

Lea & Perrins, soy sauce, ketchup to the top, prune puree towards the bottom

Lea & Perrins, soy sauce, ketchup to the top, prune puree towards the bottom

prune paste/puree. So I would mix together every item save mustard and allspice, reduce it down 20% (get it down to about 1/2

Cooking down the ingredients on medium heat

Cooking down the ingredients on medium heat

cup [8 T]) and the add the mustard and allspice.  Now I *could* go get prunes, rehydrate them and then puree them in afood processor.  But then I found a

Prune puree for the tonkatsu sauce

Prune puree for the tonkatsu sauce

surprise: Plum Organics Just Prunes Organic Baby Food – a simple 3.5 oz unsweetened puree.

I combined everything except for the mustard and allspice and cooked it at medium heat until it got to just over 6 tablespoons.

Adding in 1/2 tablespoon of mustard

Adding in 1/2 tablespoon of mustard

Then I added the mustard, blended it in as best I could and then blended in the allspice.  The sauce was then set aside to cool to

...and then to add a final touch of allspice

…and then to add a final touch of allspice

room temperature.

The finished sauce

The finished sauce

A quick taste of the sauce revealed a subtle sweetness from the prunes.  My wife also tasted the sauce and commented that she could actually taste the prunes as opposed to the prune puree from the package.  No doubt, the prune puree’s flavor and sweetness was brought out through the cooking process.  So, my suspicions about replacing the sugar with the prune puree turned out to be right.

***

So to do the dinner, I turned to Iron Chef Morimoto’s template of making tonkatsu; and in this case he was using tri-tip or filet mignon cuts. An online copy of his recipe can be found here:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/foodanddrink/recipes/beef-cutlet-sandwich/fd-e3b178d7-c2b4-5968-99e8-0a77b84d5fec

Of course, I’d be using boneless pork chops. The chops were marinated (at my wife’s request) in 1/2 oz both of soy and sake for about 10 minutes (gee, this sounds awfully familar to Nishino’s marinating toro slices for about a minute in 2:1 soy/sake mix.

A quick marinade on the boneless pork chop

A quick marinade on the boneless pork chop

The chop then had about 3 or 4 shallow depth snips cut into the fat side of the chop.  This would prevent the chop from  curling

Snipping the chop

Snipping the chop

while frying . The chops were then placed into ziploc bag and then hammered with a meat mallet until they were about 1/4″

bang. bang. bang, bang, bang!

bang. bang. bang, bang, bang!

thick.  For the tonkatsu coating, my wife and I used:

Katsu dipping station

Katsu dipping station

1/2 cup all-purpose flour in a large plate
1 large egg, beaten in another large plate
1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs (panko) in yet another large plate

1. Into the egg

1. Into the egg

The (wet) marinated pork was dipped in egg, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, and finally the

2. into the flour

2. into the flour

panko (my wife insists on this since she feels it gives the chop a crisper shell).

3. back to the flour

3. back to the egg

4. back to the flour

4. back to the flour

5. back to the egg

5. back to the egg

6. and finally into the panko breadcrumbs

6. and finally into the panko breadcrumbs

I would have to cook the coated pork chops in about 1/2 inch (1 cm) of grapeseed oil in a medium wok (set over high heat until the oil

enter the oil

enter the oil (just making sure it’s hot enough)

shimmers). The cutlets would be added to the the hot oil (medium heat), fried on both sides for about 3 minutes a side until a

Starting to  the tonkatsu

Starting to cook the tonkatsu

The tonkatsu flipped over

The tonkatsu flipped over

crisp golden brown and cooked through. Once each chop was done, it would be moved to a rack with paper towels beneath it to allow any excess oil to drain away   But why the (wire) rack? Iron Chef Morimoto advises: Do not drain the tempura on paper towels, because wherever the batter touches a surface, steam will collect and soften the crunchy crust. If drained on a wire rack, the air will circulate around the tempura, keeping it light and crisp. – Morimoto:The New Art of Japanese Cooking, pg. 110.  I think that advice is well applied here as well.

the tonkatsu ready to moved to the drain rack

the tonkatsu ready to moved to the drain rack

As we enjoyed the meal, my wife remarked that the she preferred the homemade katsu sauce.  She commented that it was far

Dinner - cold corn on the cob, stir fried cabbage (ok, ok, tonkatsu is supposed to have raw shredded cabbage), shredded carrot and enoki stir fry and tonkatsu

Dinner – cold corn on the cob, stir fried cabbage (ok, ok, tonkatsu is supposed to have raw shredded cabbage), shredded carrot and enoki stir fry and tonkatsu (homemade sauce on left, Bulldog to its right)

less sweet and had that little extra punch of flavor compared with the Bulldog.  I  tended to agree; moreover I noticed that the flavor profile (less the sweetness) of the Bulldog was close the homemade one.  That should be no surprise, since it Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce contained vinegar, onion, galic, tamarind, “natural flavorings”, and chili pepper extract. Bulldog overlapped the ingredient list with vinegar, “spices”, and onions.

Now I look forward to making katsu sando (sandwiches) for lunch!

Resources

Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce                   – HMart, Burlington, MA
Plum Organics Just Prune Puree    – Walgreens, Newton Center, MA

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  1. #1 by pomai on May 25, 2015 - 4:46 pm

    Awesome effort at homemade Tonkatsu Sauce! Interesting that you used Prune puree for the fruit element. I also hear Apple Sauce is another “secret” ingredient to authentic Japanese Tonkatsu Sauce. I’ll try adding that next time I make Katsu.

    If you noticed my “Wild card” homemade sauce in “The Great Tonkatsu Sauce Shootout” you referred to, I prepared it by mixing ketchup, worcestershire sauce, mirin, shoyu and a little sugar, which is a little more elaborate than how some plate lunch places here in Hawaii make theirs. Most local places here simply mix ketchup and worcestershire sauce, and that’s it.

    Glad to see your pingback to my blog post was a legitimate, relevant article, and not SPAM. 😉

  2. #2 by tastingmenu on May 29, 2015 - 11:36 pm

    Mahalo, Pomai.

    In regards to selecting a tonkatsu sauce recipe template – I went to Cook’s Illustrated and then to Hiroko Shimbo’s recipes first since they had quotable measurements and I tasted both versions. After tasting the Bulldog Sauce, I found it rather sweet compared to the Hiroko Shimbo version.
    The Shimbo recipe also seemed to provide a little more of a punch than did the Bulldog.

    Given the ingredient list of the recipe provided from your commenter ‘Kristin’, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised how similar the flavor profiles were between the sauce that I made compared with the one from Bulldog. I realized it shared many of the same ingredients found in Heinz ketchup as well as Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.

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