21 October 2009

On Love and Katsudon

(Cross-posted on my food blog! ;D)

, that surprisingly simple donburi where a breaded pork cutlet sits atop a bowl of rice, was made romantic when Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto used it as a focal element in her award-winning novella Kitchen.

In the story, the heroine - Mikage Sakurai - chances upon a beautifully-done katsudon at a small restaurant. The dish is so good that she impulsively decides to share it with her friend - possibly her lover - Yuichi Tanabe who has fled to Izu in deepest mourning. As she hands the katsudon to Yuichi and watches him eat, Mikage realizes that their relationship has reached the point where it permanently changes from mere friendship to a full-blown romance.

In my personal opinion, I can't think of any literary moment that is as sweet. Then again, I'm a foodie and I believe romance should be accompanied by a good square meal!

I was re-reading Kitchen for the nth time recently and was toying with the idea of actually preparing a katsudon for the wonderful Mr. W. Of course, as usual, we all know what a major coward I am in the love department, but I still think it's worth a shot at doing.

The following recipe is adapted from the one posted by About.com's Japanese food expert Setsuko Yoshizuka. It has, of course, been tweaked based on what I had available in my kitchen the first time I attempted this recipe.

For the tonkatsu:
  • 4 pork cutlets, each pounded to about 1/2 an inch thick
  • flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • panko [Japanese breadcrumbs]
  • oil for deep frying
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1 white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 sachet dashi-no-moto [instant dashi stock], dissolved in 1-1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or sweet Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups cooked rice
Season cutlets with salt and pepper; allow to marinate for about 10 - 20 minutes. Dredge each cutlet in flour, dip in the beaten egg, and roll in the panko till well covered. Deep-fry till golden brown. Set aside.

Over medium heat, combine the dissolved dashi-no-moto with the soy sauce, cooking wine, and sugar in a saucepan. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Slice the fried cutlets and add to the sauce; bring to a boil. Add the four beaten eggs, spreading them evenly over the cutlets. Lower the heat and cover for a minute or so. Turn off the heat.

Place the rice in four deep bowls. Divide the tonkatsu mixture evenly over the rice.

Serves 4.

Now, if you're not exactly confident about your skills in the kitchen, you could always do what Mikage did in the story and just buy a katsudon from a reputable Japanese restaurant. (The one pictured here is from Teriyaki Boy; always a nice choice! :D) After all, it's the thought that counts.

However, I am of the opinion that nothing says "I love you" more passionately than fixing your beloved a good meal. Then again, that's just me. ;)

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