Tokyo 2020 (2021), another edition of the Olympic Games, is coming to an end, after over two weeks of events, sports and life changing experiences for many athletes from all around the world. Beginning with the extra wait of one year due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, then establishing protocols to minimize exposure, keeping the pandemic tractable, and ending with the question of how the games have affected the financial situation and, in this case, also the health state, of the hosting nation, the success level of The Games of the XXXII Olympiad might be a moot point for a while, but there is no doubt that once again, and as always, they have been an inspiring global experience.
Mexico finished with four bronze medals: mixed-team archery, women’s synchronized 10-m platform diving, women’s 76kg weightlifting and … men’s football, closing with a great performance in no other than Saitama Stadium, against host Japan, for a final score of 3-1.
While thinking of a dish that could be a homage to the football match contenders, Japan and Mexico, I ended up choosing breaded pork cutlets, an appropriately international dish, known, amongst other names, as Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein in Austria, Kotlet schabowy in Poland, milanesas de puerco in Mexico, and Tonkatsu とんかつ in Japan.
In Mexico, milanesas are usually offered with a simple side of Russian salad and fresh veggies (photo below, left), or they can go inside a crusty bun for a torta de milanesa (photo below, centre), or the famous cemita de Puebla (photo below, right):
In Japan, tonkatsu is served with a generous portion of raw shredded cabbage, and Katsu sauce, as shown at the top of this post, and below:
In a previous post, I extensively talked about breaded beef cutlets, and how to efficiently prepare them baked, and I recently tried cooking them in my air fryer. In both cases, success depended mainly on using very thin pieces of meat, and pre-toasting the breadcrumbs for a golden-brown finish. These methods are definitely less greasy or messy than deep-frying, and by pre-browning the crumbs, the coating gets really crispy and looks deep golden brown. In the photos below, comparing cutlets coated with regular breadcrumbs (pale), and pre-toasted breadcrumbs (golden brown) both before cooking, on the photo on the left, and after air-frying, on the photo on the right:
However, for Japanese tonkatsu, since it is prepared from thick boneless pork loin chops, the meat might become tough or, worse, do not cook completely, so deep frying is the best way to go. Using a deep pot just wide enough to fit one cutlet at a time, and oil with a neutral flavour, and high smoke point, such as peanut oil (230°C, or 450°F) or safflower oil (256°C, or 510ºF) will keep the process as healthy and stress-free as possible. A food thermometer is not indispensable, but comes in handy to monitor the oil. I rarely deep-fry, but I thought I would make an exception, this being a special occasion, of Olympic proportions.
Japanese Breaded Pork Cutlets –
Tonkatsu – Milanesa de puerco
Ingredients (for four portions)
4 boneless pork loin chops
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
Oil, for deep-frying, preferably peanut or safflower
6 cups shredded cabbage; washed and drained
Katsu sauce, store bought (such as Bulldog™*), or homemade by mixing together:
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp HP™ sauce (or other tangy BBQ sauce)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Starting with thick pork loin pieces, (photo below, left), trim the fat around, then use a meat tenderizer, or the dull edge of a large knife, to pound the meat all over (photo below, right):
Prepare three shallow dishes, one with flour, another with the eggs (lightly beaten) and the third, with Panko breadcrumbs. Coat both sides of each cutlet, going in that order, first with flour (photo below, left), then dipping in egg (photo below, centre), and finally, with breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs gently to stick to the meat surfaces (photo below, right):
Set up the frying station, as shown below, left: place the prepared cutlets on a plate, at hand; using a deep pot just wide enough to fit one cutlet, place on stove and pour enough oil for a depth of approximately one inch (2.54 cm). Attach the food thermometer (if using) to the side of the pot, with the tip immersed in the oil. Place a tray or other heat-resistant surface on the side, lined with paper towels; my mom always used a large brown paper bag, folder to form a flat bottom with three “walls”, as shown in the photo below, left. Heat up the oil at HIGH, until the temperature reaches at least 400ºF (205°C), then reduce heat to medium (without the thermometer, a way to identify this point is when the oil starts to form ripples); in the photo left, notice the initial temperature at 425.8°F (I used safflower oil). Fry one cutlet at a time, flipping only once, until both sides are golden brown. In the photo below, right, notice the oil bubbling from the moisture in the meat, evaporating as it heats up, and the temperature dropping to 349.5°F:
This drop is quite dramatic, and that is why it is important to have the oil as hot as possible (without reaching the smoke point), so when the food is added, the temperature will still be high enough to allow browning, and avoid a lot of oil being absorbed. As the moisture evaporates, it repels fat away from the meat, so having a lot of bubbling action is a good sign. Remove the fried cutlet onto the prepared surface with paper towels, letting sit vertically, as shown below:
Repeat with the rest of the cutlets, and serve while hot, with a portion of shredded cabbage and Katsu sauce:
Either a bowl of Japanese steamed rice, or a pile of warm hot tortillas will go great with this platter. What a delicious way to celebrate Mexico’s Olympic men’s football bronze medal, and acknowledge Japan’s role as host and final rival in the field!
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #502, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.