Monday, March 21, 2011


Tonkatsu is Japanese fried pork cutlet.

We make it here at home with pork tenderloin, which makes for a soft, flavorful tonkatsu.

Want to see it a little bit closer?

You can change this into chicken katsu too, prepare the meat the same way using chicken.

Shredded cabbage goes with tonkatsu, so that's the first thing to prepare.

When picking out cabbage, you want to find a light head, not a dense one. The freshest cabbage is one that the leaves aren't packed densely together. 

(My dad grows cabbage and that's what he taught me.)

 Remove the thick part of the cabbage leaf near the stem, roll the leaf (you can do two at a time) and slice as thinly as possible.

If you have a mandolin slicer, you can use that instead, quarter the cabbage and start slicing from the tip end.

Put the sliced cabbage into an ice bath for a few minutes, drain, and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

On to preparing the meat.

This is what I use to make tonkatsu, pork loin tenderloin.

At Costco, it comes two packages together, and there are two pieces per package. 

The amount of meat in one package will feed 4 - 6 people.

Make a flour dredge by adding a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of your pepper mill to about 3/4 cup flour.

In another bowl, add a little bit of water to one egg and beat vigorously.

That's your egg wash.

In another bowl, put your breadcrumbs.

I use panko, Japanese style breadcrumbs.

These are the two pieces of meat that are in each package.

Slice them into about one-inch rounds.

Dredge them in flour.

When Rick was little, he used to always help me make tonkatsu.

I'm missing him right now.

After dredging the meat, egg wash is next.

Put the meat in the egg wash.

Then into the panko.

Scoop the crumbs over the meat and press on it a little to be sure it sticks.

Now you're ready to fry them.

This is the oil I use for frying.

Tempura Kome Abura, rice bran oil for frying.

Heat your pan, then add the oil.

I can tell when the oil is ready by dropping a small piece of the panko into the oil. If it sizzles like this, the oil is ready.

If you're using an electric skillet, heat the oil to 340 degrees F.

Add the meat and fry until the dry panko on the top has almost disappeared, then turn over.

Fry for 3 or 4 minutes on each side. The internal temperature of pork should read 137 degrees F to be done.

Drain on paper towels.

Plate the tonkatsu with the cabbage.

Serve with tonkatsu sauce.

Tonkatsu sauce is a worcestershire and apple based thick, sweet sauce, eaten with the meat and cabbage.

There's a little bit of daikon-oroshi, grated daikon, served with it.

My grandmother said you serve daikon-oroshi with anything fried, it helps digestion.

Peel about a three-inch length of daikon and grate.

Gently press most of the water out of the daikon pulp.

That's daikon-oroshi.

I also made a little bit of carrot & turnip namasu.

Grated turnips (that my dad grew) and carrots with one thinly sliced green onion, seasoned with 5 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Marinate for at least one hour.

 Serve with rice and a bowl of misoshiru.

Dozou meshiagare!

(Enjoy your meal!)

Gary's brother and his wife came for dinner last night and brought these desserts from nearby Phoenix Bakery.

Mango pudding.

Light, creamy, with small chunks of mango at the bottom.

These are flavored mochi balls with coconut on the outside and sweet bean on the inside.

These were finger-jello-ish, with a layer of coconut and sweet bean mixture in the middle.

It was fun having a little taste of all the different desserts.

Thanks, Eugene and Maria for bringing them over!


Eugene and Maria are expecting a baby soon, and since I had finished knitting a baby blanket that morning for them, I gave it to them after dinner.

Makes me think about knitting. 

And Rita.

My mom taught me how to knit when I was pretty young, maybe about 9 or 10 years old. I'm not too good at it, I can't make complicated things like my friend Hisako, or challenging, artistic things like my friend Laura. I can knit, purl, and yarn-over, that's about it. I learned with the throwing method of knitting, but I recently taught myself the continental style of knitting, that was a challenge. It took at least one blanket to switch over, but I like this method a lot better.

Knitting always makes me think of Rita, our neighbor when I was little. I remember Rita being an expert knitter, always with knitting needles and yarn in her hands.

This is my Dancing with the Stars shot, me and Rita & Saul's son David.

Rita lived in the house behind us, and we were such good friends with their family, that we made a hole in the block-wall between our yards so we could easily go to their house and they could come to ours. You can see it in the photo below.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Rita.

But I can picture Rita so clearly in my mind's eye.

I remember her husband Saul and his camera. He had a big camera, and sometimes he would be out taking photos of us kids playing around the yards.

I actually remember him taking the one above, and this one below.

It helps me remember my vampire stage.

Yup, that's me.

My glamour shot.

That year, all I wanted for Christmas was my two front teeth.

My mom used to give me perms.

Toni perms.

When I think of Rita, I mostly think of Love.

That's what I remember most, more than her big personality, the space between her front teeth, or being the epitome of a Jewish mother.

When I think of Rita, I think of her big hugs and kisses, I remember her being big, warm, and soft.

When I was about 7, I ran away from home.

I was sent to my room by my mother, punished for something I can't remember. Most likely being sassy to her and getting my cheek pinched.

I remember feeling so frustrated and not knowing what to do with those feelings, or possibly not even knowing it was frustration.

So I pushed up the wood casement window, unlatched the screen, jumped out the window and ran away through the hole in the block-wall, to Rita's house.

I found Rita, in her warm kitchen that afternoon, making gingerbread men cookies.

Rita invited me into her kitchen, didn't raise an eyebrow when I told her I ran away from home, sat me down at the kitchen table and had me make gingerbread men with her.

I vaguely remember Rita talking to me about my mother, and sending me home with a gingerbread man that my brothers broke.

But I really remember feeling Rita's love.

Rita, Saul, and their family moved away a few years later, and I remember seeing her just a few times after that, one of them being at my wedding.

I remember how good it felt to be hugged by Rita again.

For a wedding gift, Rita knit me an afghan.

I got to pick the color. 


We call this Rita's blanket.

When I sleep under this blanket, it's like getting a big hug from Rita.

Even to this day.

No printable recipe for this one yet.


  1. Well, see what I learn from you. I always bought the heavy cabbage with the leaves packed tight. Now I know.

    Like your story about Rita, wonderful to have nice neighbors. What a cute little girl you were! Nice pictures.

  2. Karolyn, Rita would be so proud of you!

  3. Wow, loved the story pf Rita. It made me feel like I was reading House on Mango Street again. So touching. Thanks for sharing your authentic recipes and stories

  4. Ahhh...everyone should have a Rita in their childhood!

    Making Tonkatsu this week...and I'm sure you know why!! It's a favorite of Tylers and he's only home for spring break for 5 days!:(

  5. Dear Foodji:
    BTW...Jilly Bean was making barley and mushroom soup last night and called me! She is loving Foodji!! She wanted to know if you could add a "printable recipe" section to your blog(just like you know who:)!!!! I thought it was great suggestion and your other followers might like that too!!!
    It's hard to scroll down with your hands covered in egg wash and Panko!!

    "Challenged in the Kitchen"