There’s a special delight in the Japanese attention to detail and an ability to engineer perfection (shibui or “the beauty in simplicity” and kaizen, or “continuous improvement”), which combines to make this snack — albeit one that takes a while to put together — a joy and further serves to remind us of the incredibly high standard of food to be found everywhere in Japan; right ‘down’ to the convenience food to be found in the Lawsons, 7-Elevens and Family Mart stores that are strategically located on almost every street, in even the smallest towns & villages.
Here’s a shot of some of the supplies we’d laid in, whilst knowing that we’d be confined to the hotel by the tornado tearing up Southern Japan.
and the nibbles
Or how about this tuna in the old market in Kyoto?
This is made with wagyu but it could easily be substituted for some fine Berkshire loin pork (see what I did there? Yes, actually made this piece about pigs!)
For the sandwich:
2 wagyu sirloin steaks – approx. 200g each
4 slices of thick white bread
150g Iberico pork fat
25g butter unsalted, cubed
100g plain flour
250g panko breadcrumbs
¼ white cabbage
½ cucumber – sliced finely
75ml pickling liquid (50ml water, 25ml rice wine vinegar, 12g sugar)
For the sando sauce:
1 tsp umami paste (or you can use 50g. of dried mushrooms)
1 tsp mirin
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp English mustard
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp soy sauce
1. Finely slice the cabbage on a mandolin grater. She debates over whether or not to also add some Kewpie mayonnaise. In my view, absolutely yes, but you may prefer the raw crunchiness texture by omitting it. Set aside.
2. Bring the pickling liquor to the boil then take it off the heat. Allow to cool, then add the finely sliced cucumber and set aside to pickle. This will take around 10 minutes.
3. Heat up a large frying pan and melt the Iberico pork fat. Place the sliced bread into the pork fat, and add 25g butter per slice, and toast one side only. Set aside on a paper towel to cool.
4. Next prepare the meat by trimming the ends off to make the steak slightly larger than the slices of bread. Season with salt.
5. Heat up the vegetable oil to 200c.
6. Whilst the oil is heating up, make the sando “tonkostu” sauce by mixing them together in a bowl.
7. Now breadcrumb the meat by making an egg wash, flour and breadcrumb station and coating the meat in the flour first, then egg and finish with panko breadcrumbs. Set aside until the oil is ready.
8. Test the oil is ready by placing a couple of breadcrumbs into the oil and see if they sizzle quickly. If it browns too quickly then it may be too hot, if it doesn’t fry at all, then your oil isn’t hot enough. It’s probably best to use a probe thermometer.
9. Carefully place one of the steaks into the oil, and fry until golden. This will take around 5 minutes, turning halfway, depending on the size/shape of your steak. Ideally the breadcrumbs will be golden and your meat inside will be medium rare (50c).
10. Once they are golden, set aside on a paper towel (to pick up any excess oil), coat the non-fried side of bread, and the katsu on both sides liberally with the tonkotsu sauce. Add the cabbage and then wedge together very tightly. Trim the ends off, and cut in half to serve. Finish with the pickled cucumber to snack on.
If they come out looking anything like this, then you’re on a winner!