Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Local Japanese Food: “Ton-Katsu” or Pork Chops/Cutlets | April 3, 2010

Be prepared for a lot of posts on Japanese food, as its divine blend of uniqueness in taste and preparation makes it a treat for all those who try it. No matter which eatery, fast-food joint, street stall, or gourmet restaurant you stumble upon during your Japanese vacation, you will not be disappointed. In fact, relishing Japanese food should be top priority for your Japan travel. It’s also much cheaper than you may think.

Ton-katsu is one of the most popular among several other Japanese dishes. It was invented in the later part of the 19th century and has since then has become a part of the Japanese cuisine. Many western dishes have been reinvented by incorporating the local Japanese flavor and this is one of them. Curry-rice, ton-katsu and croquettes are a few of the western dishes which have been imparted with an indigenous touch and have become a part of daily cuisine.

Japanese Food Ton-katsu

Local Japanese Food: Ton-katsu

In the category of these dishes, ton-katsu is an extremely popular stand-out. The word itself is essentially a combination of the word “cutlet” and Japanese pork “ton.” The dish is a deep fried thick pork chop. Sorry, not very Kosher…

A piece of the pork is coated with a mixture of beaten eggs, bread crumbs and flour and then sprinkled with salt and pepper. The cutlet is not served alone and always has some garnishing. The accompaniments to this include white rice, miso soup, chopped raw cabbage and a special ton-katsu sauce which is a variation of Worcestershire sauce – to die for, if you ask me. The cuisine is completed with Japanese hot mustard called wagarashi. The ton-katsu is generally served in bite sizes which can be conveniently eaten with chopsticks, but don’t worry – you will not be shunned from Japanese society for asking for a fork and knife (I hope).

The taste of ton-katsu is unique and its quality differs as per the chefs who make it. Even the name of the dish is not constant and depending on the cuts of the meat used, it may vary. Every restaurant may have its own style of serving and making of the dish. While some use thicker bread crumbs others use different brands of pork depending on the method followed in preparation. There are some regional variations like the miso-katsu of Nagoya which is served covered in miso sauce. Apart from this there are several dishes like katsu-sando (pork cutlet sandwich) and katsu-don (rice bowl with pork cutlet on top) that are based on the ton-katsu.

This is not just another cutlet; the taste of ton-katsu is special, and one that you probably have not encountered before. Generally the outer layer is crispy due to it being coated with bread and eggs and then subsequently deep fried. In complete contrast, the inner part of the cutlet is juicy and soft. This is so because the flour and bread crumbs used have the effect of sealing the inner juice of the meat and retain its tenderness. Depending on the amount of sauce that is used, it may taste a little sour but the same is complementary to the taste of the dish as a whole. The overall taste of ton-katsu is definitely well balanced and well thought out, as is any Japanese dish.

To top it all, you can enjoy a VERY filling ton-katsu meal at a reasonable and affordable price. It is a complete meal in itself, including soup, cabbage, and rice that can be usually refilled endlessly, and is available at a price ranging from 800 Yen to 1200 Yen. This price may vary depending on the place and the restaurant, but it’s definitely a cheap eat-out option.



  1. Interesting choice for your first article about Japanese cuisine!

    I always thought that all those deep-fried dishes you have on menus of Japanese restaurants in America (or Israel for that matter 🙂 ) were western adaptations of Japanese food.

    Are deep-fried dishes common in the traditional Japanese kitchen?

    Comment by Niv Steingarten — April 15, 2010 @ 2:56 am

    • Hey Niv,

      It’s cool too see you’re interested in Japan and perhaps traveling there. I’ll try to post some Japanese language related stuff in the near future too.

      There are actually quite a lot of deep-fried dishes in Japan, but probably less than other Asian cuisines. There’s the deep-fried chicken (kara-age) for example.

      Comment by Josh Shulman — April 15, 2010 @ 3:22 am

  2. It’s deep oil fried Tampura kinda food?
    And please add some pictures of the meals 😛

    I enjoy very much the taste off the Japanese taste.
    Nice post! 😀

    Comment by Sarah — April 16, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

    • It’s not the same type of deep-fry like Tempura – so much better

      Comment by Josh Shulman — April 17, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

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    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

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