How to make Katsudon

Katsudon is one of the most popular ways of eating katsu in Japan, but it hasn’t quite caught on abroad as much. I think it’s because of the idea of putting a crispy fried thing into a liquid that softens it isn’t often done in Western cooking. The idea, however, is quite common in Japanese cuisine and it is done so that the breading will absorb the flavour of the liquid while softening to a sticky, silky texture.

Ingredients

2 cooked tonkatsu, sliced

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

1 tbsp mirin

2 tsp sugar

1 onion, peeled and thickly sliced

4 eggs, beaten

3-4 cups cooked Japanese rice

mitsuba, snow pea shoots or watercress, to serve

shichimi tougarashi (Japanese seven spice), to serve

Cheat’s dashi

1½ cups water

1½ tsp fish sauce

Method

Make the cheat’s dashi by combining the ingredients together. Of course, you could use actual dashi or any other stock. Mix in the soy sauce, sake and mirin to create your seasoning liquid.

In a frying pan around the same diameter as your serving bowl, combine half the seasoning liquid, 1 tsp of sugar, and half the onion. Simmer until the onion softens, then place the sliced tonkatsu on top. Pour over half of the beaten egg and cover with a lid. Steam for just a minute or two until the egg begins to set.While the tonkatsu is steaming, place half of the rice into your serving bowl and flatten the top, leaving around 3cm at the top of the bowl for the katsu. When the egg is barely set, slide the entire contents of the pan on top of the rice. Garnish with mitsuba and sprinkle over a little shichimi tougarashi to serve.

Top Tips for Katsudon

  • Having a pan around the same size as the bowl is quite important, as the egg will set to the shape of the pan and you want it to cover the entire top of the bowl.
  • If I know I am going to make katsudon I will often fry my tonkatsu for a minute or two less, just so it doesn’t overcook while it’s steaming. This is not essential, however, as katsudon is often made from completely cooked tonkatsu.
  • The sugar can be added to the seasoning liquid but I find that it is easier to add to the pan as it will not fully dissolve in the cold liquid.
  • Make one serve of katsudon per pan. It is possible to make a larger serve and halve it, but it is frankly easier to make two bowl-sized servings.
  • If your katsu is too big for the pan, you can remove some of the slices before adding to the pan.
Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu sauce is a sweet sauce made from fruits and vegetables that is a little like a thicker version of English Worcestershire sauce. While you can buy tonkatsu sauce in Japanese grocers under the Bulldog or Otafuku brands, high end tonkatsu places will always make their own. Try it yourself. This homemade version will change the way you look at tonkatsu.

Ingredients

Makes about 1L

½ cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp extra

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 apple, cored and roughly chopped

1 peach, pit removed and roughly chopped

4 dates, seeds removed and roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cloves

200 ml tomato passata

100 ml red wine

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ cup soy sauce

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Method

Combine the sugar with 2 tbsp water in a large non-reactive saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a dark caramel, then add 150ml of water and stir to dissolve the caramel. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar, the onion, carrot, apple, peach, dates, bay leaves, spices, tomato passata, red wine, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 mins until the fruits and vegetables are softened, then allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the bay leaves and blend in a high-speed blender until smooth. (Pass through a sieve if your blender is not fast enough to get the sauce smooth.)

Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon while warm. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a month. Store in sterilised jars if keeping for more than 1 month.

Top Tips for Tonkatsu Sauce

  • Although inspired by Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce is much thicker. Its consistency can vary from something as thin as dark soy sauce, through to thick, ketchupy varieties. I prefer my tonkatsu sauce quite thick, but if you prefer a thinner sauce just dilute it with more water or other liquid ingredients.
  • You can try other fruits as well. Stonefruits like plum and apricot are also quite common.
  • This sauce keeps well, but if you aren’t eating tonkatsu all that often you can freeze half of it and thaw it later. As well as for tonkatsu you can also use this sauce for croquettes, hamburgers, okonomiyaki, takoyaki or even just as an ordinary barbecue sauce.
How to make Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is a Japanese crumbed pork cutlet. A little like a German or Australian schnitzel, tonkatsu is one of the most popular forms of yōshoku (Western food incorporated into Japanese cuisine). You can find it in many forms – as curry, sandwiches, rice bowls etc. – but its most pure form is as a straight tonkatsu. Just the cutlet, served with shredded cabbage, a thick Worcestershire-like tonkatsu sauce, rice and miso soup on the side.

There’s a bit of an art to making a great tonkatsu, and here’s how you do it.

Ingredients

4 pork loin chops, bone removed, around 1-inch thick

1 cup plain flour

5 eggs, beaten

3 cups panko breadcrumbs

approx. 1-2 L canola oil, for deep frying

To serve

cooked rice

¼ tsp hot English mustard

finely shredded cabbage

sliced cucumber

sliced tomato

lemon wedges

Japanese pickles (such as takuan)

miso soup

Quick tonkatsu sauce

½ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp English mustard

Method

For the quick tonkatsu sauce, mix together all of the ingredients.

Tenderise the pork with a pork tenderiser (or if you don’t have one, the back of a heavy knife). Push the pork back into its original shape. Heat the frying oil to 175C.

Shred the cabbage thinly with a mandoline.

Pick up each piece of pork by inserting a skewer into it, using the skewer as a kind of hook (this will allow you to move the pork between the flour and egg without getting your hands dirty and without tongs disrupting the coating). Dip the pork into the flour first, and then the egg, then back into the flour, then back into the egg (you can even go for a third coating of flour and egg if you like), and then finally into the panko – ensuring that it is coated completely. Fry the pork two pieces at a time for 4-5 minutes, turning once or twice during the frying process. Drain the pork on a wire rack, standing the pork up on its thin end for better drainage. Allow the pork to cool and drain for 5 minutes.

Slice the cutlet and arrange on a plate with the cabbage, pickles, lemon wedge, cucumber and tomato, and add a smear of mustard. Serve with the tonkatsu sauce, rice and miso soup.

Top Tips for Tonkatsu

  • You can buy pre-made tonkatsu sauces from Japanese groceries which are excellent. The quick version given here is really just if you can’t find it near you. My real preference, however, is to make my own tonkatsu sauce (recipe to follow).
  • You don’t want to overcook your tonkatsu. Listen for when the meat starts to release its juices (the oil will start to sound very active) and remove the cutlet straight away.
  • Stay tuned to my YouTube channel for more tonkatsu recipes.
Japanese Beef Curry

Japanese curry is very different to most curries you might be familiar with. It takes a bit of French sauce technique and Japanese stewing technique and combines it for a unique style of curry where the European-style roux forms the base of a richly flavoured thick curry sauce that is used to coat the main ingredients.

Curry was introduced to Japan by the British navy which usually had canned curries for ocean voyages, and today it is often made from packaged curry roux blocks. If you want to try making it from scratch, here’s how you do it.

Ingredients

1 kg beef chuck, cut into 3cm cubes

salt and pepper, to season

1 tbsp oil

75g unsalted butter

75g plain flour

3 tbsp curry powder (or 2 tbsp curry powder and 1 tbsp garam masala)

¼ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)

150g shimeji mushrooms, broken into clumps

1 large brown onion, thickly sliced

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into irregular chunks

2 sebago potatoes, peeled and cut into irregular chunks

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

1 apple, grated

Japanese pickles (rakkyo and fukujinzuke), to serve

cooked Japanese rice, to serve

Method

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the beef in batches until well browned. Return all of the beef to the saucepan and add around 2L of water to completely cover the meat. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, skimming to remove any scum that forms on the surface.

When the beef is tender (but not falling apart), add in the potato and carrot and simmer for a further 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and strain off the solids, reserving the stock.

Heat another large saucepan and add in the butter and flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine into a roux and cook until just starting to turn colour. Add in the curry powder, garam masala and chilli powder and stir for 1 minute. Add in the stock a ladle at a time until a smooth sauce develops. You can add more stock or water if it is too thick. Add the shimeji mushrooms, sliced onion, grated apple, and other remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes until the onion is softened, stirring regularly to stop the sauce from sticking to the saucepan. Remove from the heat. Stir through the beef, potatoes and carrot, adjust seasoning for saltiness and allow to stand covered for at least 15 minutes before serving. Adjust seasoning (you will probably need to add some additional salt) and then serve with rice and pickles.

Top Tips for Japanese Curry

  • This version uses beef, but you could easily substitute any other meat or vegetable you like. If you use chicken the cooking time will be much shorter as you won’t need to wait for the chicken to become tender as for the beef chuck.
  • Using a mixture of curry powder and garam masala will give a more fragrant curry with less heat.
  • If you can’t find the rakkyo or fukujinzuke, try adding a few pickled cocktail onions instead.
  • Try making the sauce only and using that as a topping for a crumbed and fried pork cutlet for another Japanese favourite, katsu kare.
Japanese Pork and Cabbage Millefeuille with Ponzu

Ingredients

600g pork belly, skin and bone removed, sliced into ½ cm wide strips

½ head of Chinese cabbage

1 tbsp sea salt

¼ tsp ground white pepper

2 tbsp sake

2 tbsp dried scallops (optional)

Ponzu

75ml sake

75ml mirin

¼ tsp caster sugar

150ml light soy sauce

75ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

Method

Very thinly slice the pork belly into long strips about the thickness of bacon. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, but if you’re doing it yourself, putting the pork in the freezer for about 1 hour before you start will make it easier to cut. Separate the leaves of the Chinese cabbage. Mix together the salt and white pepper.

Lay a large leaf of Chinese cabbage on a clean cutting board and lay over 2-3 strips of pork. Sprinkle with a little of the salt and pepper mix. You don’t need to cover all of the cabbage leaf. Lay another cabbage leaf over the pork in the opposite direction (the leafy end of the top leaf should be over the stem end of the bottom leaf) and lay over 2-3 more strips of pork and scatter with a little more of the salt and pepper mix. Repeat the process, alternating the direction of the cabbage leaves, and using more leaves per layer for the smaller leaves. You should end up with a large, even and tightly packed pile of layered cabbage and pork.

Cut the block into equal thirds crossways and pack the thirds into a heavy-bottomed casserole dish; enamelled cast iron would be perfect. Mix together the sake, mirin and soy pour this mixture over the contents of the dish.

Place the lid on the pot and place over low heat for 1 hour without removing the cover.

For the ponzu, boil the sake and mirin together until just boiled. Stir through the soy sauce, lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

Serve the millefeuille with the ponzu in individual bowls as a dipping sauce.

Top Tips for Japanese Millefeuille

  • A lot of people have asked if you can use bacon for this instead of pork belly. The big difference between bacon and pork belly is of course that the bacon has already been cured. If using bacon, don’t season with additional salt as it will be too salty. I would recommend using pork belly instead of bacon, as using bacon may be too heavy.
  • The pronunciation of this dish is from the Japanese, not the French. In French, the dish is pronounced as for “meal-foy”, and in Japanese it is ミルフィユ, pronounced “mirufiyu”.
  • Standing the cabbage and pork stack upright doesn’t just look pretty, it’s quite important to allow the steam to circulate. Otherwise the base of the dish will cook much faster than the top.
10-minute Chilli Prawn Laksa from Instant Noodles

If you are short on time but still want a great bowl of laksa, here’s how to turn a packet of instant noodles into an authentic-tasting Malaysian-style dish.

Ingredients

1 free-range egg

2 tsp vegetable oil

2 large prawns, peeled, shells reserved

½ tsp chilli powder

2 pcs fried fishcake*

4 pcs fried tofu puffs*

2 packets MAGGI Fusian Malaysian Laksa Soupy Noodles

½ cup beansprouts

1 tsp fried Asian shallots*

1 tbsp each Vietnamese mint and coriander (optional)

1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced (optional)

½ tsp sambal belacan* (optional)

* These ingredients are available from Asian grocers and some supermarkets.

Method

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Using a metal skewer poke a small hole in the base of the egg. Boil the egg for 8 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of iced water to cool completely. Peel the egg and cut in half.

While the egg is boiling, heat a separate small saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Add the prawn shells and chilli powder fry until fragrant, then remove the shells and add 650ml of hot water. Bring to a boil, then add the fish cake and prawns and cook for about 2 seconds until the prawns are cooked through. Remove the fishcake and prawns from the pot and set aside.

Add the noodle cakes and cook for 2 minutes, then add the beansprouts and cook for a further minute. Remove everything to a bowl and stir through the flavour and creamer sachets from the noodle packets. Top with the prawn, fishcake, egg halves, herbs, chilli, fried shallots and sambal belacan. Serve immediately.

Instant Noodle Nagasaki Champon

Nagasaki champon is the most famous noodle dish from (obviously) Nagasaki in the south of Japan. When Japan went through its Sakoku isolation period from 1633 to 1853, Nagasaki was one of the only Japanese cities still open to international trade, so its cuisine became very influenced by Chinese food. These noodles are based on the Hokkien styles of noodle soups from Fujian, and the creaminess of the broth is actually achieved by adding milk. This instant noodle version is ready in in just 10 minutes.

Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ small onion

1 cup sliced cabbage

1 small carrot, sliced

100 g thinly sliced pork belly
6 prawns, peeled

100 g sliced squid, scored

8 slices pink and white Japanese fishcake (or naruto)

6 snow peas, halved

4 packets Maggi Fusian Teriyaki Soupy Noodle

½ cup milk

1 cup beansprouts

Method

Heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and fry the onion until fragrant. Add the cabbage and carrot and toss for a minute until the cabbage softens slightly. Add the pork, prawns, and fishcake and toss for about 1 minute. Add snow peas and fishcake, 5 cups of boiling water and the flavour sachets from the noodle packets.. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes until the noodles are softened, then stir through the milk and beansprouts. Serve immediately.

RAMEN SCHOOL 007: Garlic Shoyu Ramen

Shoyu ramen is one of the 4 basic ramen styles (along with shio, tonkotsu and miso) It’s a Tokyo style of ramen that uses soy sauce as the salty and umami base of the tare. Here’s how to make it.

Ingredients

Shoyu Tare

150 ml shoyu

60 ml sake

85 ml mirin

30 g sugar

40 g salt

250 ml Rich Double Soup

5 ml rice vinegar

Aromatic Garlic Oil

300 ml rendered pork fat

50 ml canola oil

15 ml sesame oil

10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

Noodles and Toppings

ramen noodles – straight, cooked to your liking

chashu

ajitama (ramen eggs)

menma (pickled bamboo shoots)

spring onions, thinly sliced

Method

For the Shoyu Tare, combine the ingredients except the rice vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, allow to cool. Then strain and add the vinegar.

For the Aromatic Oil bring the oils to 200C and add the onions and garlic. Stir until the onions are browned, then strain and allow to cool.

For each bowl of ramen use 480ml hot double Soup, 60ml of shoyu tare, 40ml of aromatic garlic oil. Add the noodles, arrange the toppings on top and serve.

Top Tips for Shoyu Ramen

  • Ramen toppings can vary a lot but other common toppings for shoyu ramen include naruto (pink and white fish cake) and komatsuna (a kind of Japanese leaf mustard).
  • I don’t like to overdo the shoyu in the tare, but if you prefer a more pronounced soy sauce flavour you can replace some of the salt with extra soy sauce.
  • Adjust the amount of tare and oil to your own taste. If you prefer it a little saltier, add more tare. If you like it lighter, add less oil.
RAMEN SCHOOL 006: Rich Double Soup for Ramen

In the first Ramen School video we went through the process of making a very basic ramen soup base using the “double soup” method. This time we’re going to use the same method, but ramping things up a bit for a more complex soup base. Using different ingredients requires a slightly different process, and of course a different length of time to get the best out of them.

This soup base is deeper in colour, richer in texture and will be stronger tasting than our first soup base. This would be more suited to a more strongly flavoured ramen, and next week I’ll show you how to turn this base into Garlic Shoyu ramen.

Ingredients

Meat broth

1 kg chicken frames

2 kg pork leg bones

2 kg pork neck/back bones

700 g chicken feet

700 g halved pork trotters

440 g brown onions, halved unpeeled

400 g carrots

100 g shiitake mushrooms

Gyokai – Seafood Broth

25 g kombu

20 g dried fish maw

75 g dried prawns

30 g dried sardines, cleaned (pick the black belly and head away from the meat and spine)

Method

Combine meat ingredients in a pot and cover with 8L water. Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 75 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Add the onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and simmer for a further 5 hours. Measure. Strain, and press the bones into the sieve to extract the flavour.

Soak the kombu in 3L cold water and refrigerate for 1 hour (that is what my notes say, but I don’t remember this). Slowly bring to a simmer over low heat over the course of about an hour, removing the kombu when it steams. Boil, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and strain.

Combine the soups and reduce by 1/3.

Top Tips for Ramen Soup

  • The most common are where people go wrong with ramen soups is not reducing them far enough. It’s understandable, as it takes a lot of time and also reduces yield, but the more concentrated your soup base is the stronger the flavour will be.
  • After cooling, you can take any fat that solidifies on top of the soup and add that to your aromatic oil for ramen.
  • As with all ramen recipes, any of these ingredients can be substituted for others. Watch the video to see why we’re using specific ingredients to understand the effect of changing one ingredient for another.

 

 

 

Blood orange membrillo

This blood orange version of Spanish quince paste is not difficult to make, but it does take a bit of time. It’s a brilliant accompaniment with strong cheeses. I particularly like it with blue cheese or good quality cheddar.

Ingredients

3 whole blood oranges (approx. 500g)

juice of 4 blood oranges (250ml)

200g caster sugar

Method

Boil whole unpeeled oranges for 1 hour. Combine with the strained juice in a blender and puree to a smooth puree (peel, pith seeds and all). Place the puree in a clean saucepan and add 200g sugar. Cover partially with a lid and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened, glossy and starting to hold together in a mass, pulling away from the sides of the pot.

Transfer the paste to a small tray or bowl lined with baking paper. The amount of paste should be around 300-400 ml and the container should be small enough so that the membrillo forms a layer of around 2 cm thickness. Smooth the top and transfer to an oven set to 80C fan-forced. Dry for around 5 hours then refrigerate overnight. Turn the membrillo out onto a second tray (the dry top will be on the bottom and the undried base will not be exposed to the air). Allow to dry overnight again. Slice and serve with cheese. Keep the membrillo in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 months.

Top Tips for Blood Orange Membrillo

  • If you can’t wait for this to dry, it is perfectly delicious as a wet paste as well.
  • The paste can be tricky to handle until it is set, but after it has dried it will not be so sticky.
  • You can use a combination of citrus rather than just blood oranges.