Initial disclaimer: this isn’t really tonkatsu, because it’s not deep fried. It’s somewhere between tonkatsu, pork escalope and schnitzel. Or, if you want to speak plainly, it’s a breaded pork chop. I’ve made something similar before, which turned out a lot of brown photographs and was pretty forgettable – that time, it was called Pork Milanese. So many names for something so simple. This time, I changed it up a little to give it a more Japanese edge, and served over veg-strewn noodles, with a variety of toppings. So many toppings, in fact, that you can’t really see all of them, or the noodles underneath. Well, there’s no point in skimping on these things, is there?
This is going to be one of those posts that’s more a method than a recipe. The amounts are a bit up and down – there was quite a large element of ‘what’s in the fridge?’ in the construction of this meal, which makes it difficult to replicate.
The first thing to do is get a couple of boneless pork chops (you can buy normal chops and remove the bone yourself, too) or pork steaks of any kind; collar, leg, shoulder, loin – whatever’s available to you. Then, HAMMER THEM. Hammer them into submission, until they’re about a quarter of an inch thick all the way across. I like to sandwich the meat between two layers of clingfilm to do this, so that neither cutting board nor hammering implement has to be scrubbed clean of all trace of raw meat. I use my rolling pin as the implement, you can choose your own. Probably a real hammer isn’t best, and a meat tenderiser will spike the meat (and clingfilm) as well as flattening, so it’s not ideal. You can get a meat mallet thing if you want to be proper.
The meat will look a wee bit dazed and, depending on the cut, may be barely hanging together in some places. Not a big deal, you’ll just have to be a little careful when you’re moving it around.
The next step is to coat the pork in a mix of beaten egg and miso paste. The miso was a flash of inspiration, and worked out really well – no need to season the meat, as miso is so salty, and it added a more authentic edge to proceedings. I used one teaspoon of miso paste to one large egg, mixed well, then dipped both chops in the egg mixture, turning to coat. Next, the pork went into a dish of fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs. You could use prepared breadcrumbs or panko, whatever you have to hand.
At this stage, the pork can wait around for a little while, while you prepare any veg you want in your noodles. I had broccoli florets, mushrooms and spring onion in mine. When you are ready to start cooking the pork, heat a tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan big enough to hold however many chops you’re cooking (or two frying pans if you have loads). Keep the heat at medium so that you don’t scorch the breadcrumbs, and fry the meat for three or four minutes on each side.
Stir fry any veg and boil any noodles that you’re having while the pork cooks, and prepare any toppings you’re having. I had a thin omelette (made with the excess miso-egg mixture), which I tore into strips, some torn seaweed and a couple of hard-boiled quails eggs. Just before serving, toss together your cooked veg and noodles and season – I flavoured my stir fry with garlic, ginger and chili, then added sesame oil and soy sauce to the end result.
Remove the pork from the frying pan and rest while you decant the noodley goodness into deep bowls. Slice the pork into strips and lay on top of the noodles, along with whatever other garnish you’re having.
The pork is crunchy on the outside but still very soft and juicy in the middle – because you’ve hammered it out so thinly, it doesn’t take long to cook all the way through, even without the heat being cranked up to the max. This is a simple meal to prepare, perfect for a weeknight, and you can vary it depending on what ingredients you prefer, or have to hand. The cupboards and fridge were well and truly raided for this one – and it was a triumph!
PS – when you eat quails eggs you can pretend either to be a giant OR to be at a royal wedding. It’s up to you.