Olympic bento #4 is an attempt at one of my all-time favourites - a tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) sandwich! I will always look out for it when I'm in Japan (or anywhere else I can find it). Having an aversion to deep frying anything at home - far too messy and uses up too much oil - I usually partake of deep-fried goodness only when eating out. I also don't like to fry pork - I tend to overcook it just to make sure it's cooked through, and the meat ends up too dry... However, ever since reading a tonkatsu recipe featured on one of my favourite websites - Just Hungry (www.justhungry.com), I decided to try it out.
It was actually much easier to make than I'd thought. I couldn't find a boneless pork chop/cutlet, so I bought a slab of what was labelled "lean pork". I sliced it lengthwise to make thinner steak-shaped pieces, then dipped the pork in flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs (Japanese style panko breadcrumbs work best - I made my own following the recipe in Just Hungry). The meat should also be lightly seasoned with salt and pepper first, which I forgot to do! Ah well, I made the more healthy "just oil, no-salt" version! I used light olive oil, and didn't really deep fry it, just sort of pan fried it with a little more oil than usual.
The tonkatsu turned out well when I fried it last night - the meat was still tender inside. However, the crumbs had turned soggy after a night in the fridge, and the re-heating this morning probably sent the meat over the well-cooked edge. Looks like I've no choice but to wake up extra early to fry it fresh next time. I also made a mistake in slicing the tonkatsu up last night - upon reflection I should have kept it whole, then reheated it this morning, then sliced it with the sandwich.
This morning, after it was re-heated, I waited until it was cool before putting it on crustless sandwich bread that was buttered on one side, and spread with Bulldog brand tonkatsu sauce on the other, with a dash of pepper on top. Putting the meat in when it's cooled stops the sandwich from getting too soggy. I went easy on the tonkatsu sauce, but realised later I should have been more generous with it - by lunchtime, the bread had soaked up the sauce and its flavour had almost disappeared. I sliced the sandwich into thirds, cutting up the sliced tonkatsu further, which made it harder to pick up but easier to eat. I figured if the meat was going to be tough, best it be in smaller chunks. One of the most terrible things that can happen when one eats a sandwich is to have a hard time biting through the meat filling, and then being forced to eat it up first, leaving the rest of the sandwich meat-less! Thankfully, the meat wasn't overly tough or dry, but the small chunks did help the chewing. The bread was a little squashed after I'd cut it, though...Overall, I think it turned out well for a first try, but it needs further improvement!
I packed the tonkatsu sandwich with a side salad of butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red cabbage and some Japanese citrus soy-based salad dressing in a little squeeze container. Together with my little yellow plastic elephant spork, it makes a sort of Olympic-coloured salad!