Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tonkatsu, and panko

It means pork cutlet.

If you haven't tried it because you cannot visualize what it is by its menu description, then just order it. Tonkatsu will instantly become your favorite thing in Japanese restaurants. You'll order it so often thereafter that finally you'll go, "maybe I should order something else sometime." It's an amazing treatment of pork, and it is delicious.

None of the videos I've watched mention this is a form of  yōshoku, 洋食, western food.

Wait a second.

This is west: 西

And this is western: 西洋

This means ocean:  洋

This means meal: 食

As we take their food and Americanize it, they take our food and Japaneseize it. And they're marvels to behold. But that's where explainers stop explaining, you're never told then we can take their yōshoku and Americanize that. Just as they take our Americanized Japanese food and Japaneseize that. It's a cycle of delicious stylizing perversion because you make do with what you have available and evaluate along your own conceits. You take what is given and think about it in your own terms. We each take what they've done with our stuff and rethink it.

I'm disappointed this video does not show the sauce. That too is Japaneseized American. The video tells us tonkatsu was influenced by Portuguese and outlasted the early ban by an unnamed emperor. But yōshoku originated after that during the Meiji restoration. I believe she is mistaken and the clue is in the sauce that she avoids discussing. Its base is catsup. And is no other sauce more American than catsup. Catsup is so American that it's not even funny.

Catsup is a tomato-based sweet/sour sauce. Nobody tells you this, but it's right there on the ingredients label. All recipes for tonkatsu sauce will have scant sugar and vinegar additions and that means they're intensifying the sweet/sour value of catsup. Tonkatsu is intensified sweet/sour catsup altered with Worcestershire sauce, and/or soy sauce, and/or A-1 sauce, sometimes oyster sauce. They're jazzing up catsup, giving it depth, expanding its profile. Worcestershire and A-1 being American GI influences. If they add oyster sauce, or soy sauce, that means they're holding back a bit on the Americanization, relying on Japanese ingredients, thinking as Japanese cooks. Tonkatsu sauce will also have garlic/ginger, a typical Asian flavor combination in either powder or fresh forms, each with their distinct characteristics. The key ingredient is catsup. And that is American.

And since the sauce is clearly American influence, then so too is the tonkatsu. They go together like this🤞.

You can buy one of those suribachi grinding bowls on Amazon for $14.00. 

Tonkatsu sauce

* 5 min. video, she uses oyster sauce, ginger but not garlic, Worcestershire sauce.

* 3.5 minute video she mumbles a key dry ingredient, she uses powdered versions of garlic and ginger, and her measuring cups set and her measuring spoons set are both connected clumsily so that they are never separated and always difficult to clean. It's funny watching her deal with them clanging around.

* 11 minute video takes too long to show a simple thing.

* 1.5 minute video, shown and explained in Spanish.

I give up. Look, it's simple, start with catsup and add whatever you like.

The video above shows her making her own panko by simply frying fresh chopped up white bread and I suppose that works fine. But that is not panko. 

Panko is bread cooked by direct electricity, not baked in an oven and that makes it intriguingly  unique. Different panko manufacturers chop the bread to different sizes of crumbs. The best manufacturers pride themselves for their large and long shape of bread particles. So big you have to smash them apart to use them for tonkatsu or else you end up with like 5 large torn particles of bread fried on your cutlet.

The narrator below says, "our proprietary high protein bread flour." Such hyperbole. It's all imported. Guess from where. C'mon, guess.

Give up?

From Nebraska. From my friend's farm. From his two thousand acres. (Now four thousand since his dad died.) He told me that all of his wheat is high protein (for bread flour) and all of it gets shipped to Japan.

Have you ever made bread with high-protein bread flour? It's strange because just a few turns in the bowl and boom the gluten strands form. I bought it in 50LB sacks and baked my butt off during a sourdough learning period. Not all high protein flour goes to Japan, but Japan does bid up for the best. They take our best.

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