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.”
As it would turn out, my local HMart only had the Bull Dog.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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
while frying . The chops were then placed into ziploc bag and then hammered with a meat mallet until they were about 1/4″
thick. For the tonkatsu coating, my wife and I used:
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
The (wet) marinated pork was dipped in egg, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, and finally the
panko (my wife insists on this since she feels it gives the chop a crisper shell).
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
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
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.
As we enjoyed the meal, my wife remarked that the she preferred the homemade katsu sauce. She commented that it was far
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!
Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce – HMart, Burlington, MA
Plum Organics Just Prune Puree – Walgreens, Newton Center, MA