I lived in Japan from age 1 to 2. Sadly, we left before I became fluent in English, much less Japanese. And I remember almost nothing about Japan. Fortunately, my parents do, and my mom continued to cook delicious Japanese-inspired dishes throughout my childhood. For me, Japanese cuisine is the pinnacle of comfort food.
Of course, buying lots of authentic ingredients for Japanese cooking here in the United States can get expensive and inconvenient. This is especially true where I live right now. I haven’t been able to locate an Asian market within 50 miles of here. That’s one reason I love my mom’s adaptations of Japanese cooking. They’re economical and the ingredients are easy to find in the grocery store, yet the results still taste delicious and special.
This particular recipe for pork cutlet donburi (katsu-don), or Japanese pork and rice bowl, feels like a fancy restaurant meal, even though all of the ingredients are very inexpensive. It does require deep-frying, which is not my favorite activity, but it’s worth it for this dish. Cheap, lean pork chops never taste so good as when they’re pounded thin and tender, battered in crispy corn flakes or panko, and deep-fried to golden-crisp perfection.
The original, authentic version of this recipe calls for dashi broth and mirin. I don’t like to keep alcoholic beverages in my home, even for cooking (because I like to taste everything I cook with), but my mom’s version of the sweet and savory broth calls only for common ingredients, in just the right proportions to be flavorful and delicious!
This pork cutlet donburi is also adaptable to individual tastes in the family. Those who don’t like certain ingredients, whether it be the onion, the peas, or the egg, can have their portions prepared without. Or, the pork cutlets can be dipped in a favorite sauce, tonkatsu style, with rice on the side.
Next time you have some lean pork chops or a pork loin or sirloin roast in your freezer, try dressing them up for a restaurant-style Japanese dish, customized for the budget-conscious American family.
- 2 ½ cups short-grain rice, cooked
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 4 small, lean boneless pork chops or loin filets
- salt and pepper
- 3 TBS flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup crushed cornflakes or panko
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp beef boulion
- 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
- 3-4 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup frozen green peas
Heat vegetable oil 1-inch deep in a large pan or wok to 340* F or until a few cornflake crumbs dropped into the middle of the oil surface immediately. Trim any excess fat from the pork filets and pound them to 1/4” thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each filet first in flour, then the egg, letting the excess egg drip off. Then coat with the crushed cornflakes or panko, pressing them gently into the pork chop. Fry pork chops in the oil for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown. Drain on paper towels, then cut each cutlet into thin slices.
Mix the broth ingredients in a bowl. Pour a quarter of this broth into a seperate skillet or saucepan and bring to a boil. Add a portion of the onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until tender. Add the slices of one cutlet and cook 1 minute more. When the broth has thoroughly coated the cutlet, push the onion and cutlet slices to one side of the pan. Pour one portion of the eggs into the other half of the pan, giving it a few gentle stirs as it cooks. Add ¼ cup of the peas to the pan and cook about 1 minute more.
Place one portion of the steamed rice in a bowl, and dress it with the cutlet, egg, onion and pea mixture. Repeat this process for the remaining portions.
Serves 4 as a main dish.