Japanese food can be divided into “yo-shoku” and “wa-shoku.” Yoshoku commonly refers to food with a western influence while washoku is considered 100% Japanese. カツ丼 or katsudon is in the first category. A western pork chop, breaded and pan seared, served over rice with a sauce that combines classic Japanese pantry items with a western white onion.
The first thing you are going to need is dashi. Dashi is a wonderful stock made with a combination of dried fish flakes (katsuobushi or bonito flakes) and seaweed (kombu). Its’ simple, rich and a pain to make if you don’t stock a full Japanese pantry. Luckily there are stock packets that are sold in many Asian markets that will make absurd volumes of stock cheaply and won’t taste bad at all. If you are making miso soup or something that used more than a cup of stock making it from scratch will make a difference. Katsudon on the other hand uses between a half cup and full cup and doesn’t require making dashi from scratch.
A quick note: many of these stock packets, if not all, come with a familiar ingredient known in Japan as the essence of flavor or MSG everywhere else. Now some people have claimed to experience health issues with consuming MSG while others have claimed that MSG is perfectly fine for you since it is eaten throughout Asia with no problems. Some even consider it a more healthy substitute for standard salt. I tend to fall towards the second camp, although I would not add it myself as a salt substitute, and therefore think using a stock packet with some MSG is just fine.
This is what I’ve been using:
Now for the recipe:
Freshly cooked rice
2 pork chops (boneless, or with bone removed and saved for stock)
3 eggs (1 for breading and 1 for each pork chop)
Panko bread crumbs
White pepper (freshly ground if possible)
1 small white onion
2 T. Soy sauce
1 T. Mirin
3/4 T. sugar
Parsley/shiso leaves (for garnish)
Katsudon is a rice bowl dish and that’s why freshly cooked rice is listed first. A Japanese short grain white rice is what you want to buy and the easiest way to cook it is in an electric rice cooker. Before you put rice and water together according to the rice cookers helpful markings in the bowl you need to wash the rice. Washing the rice gets rid of the cloudy residue that coats your rice and makes the final product taste much cleaner.
Just run cold water over your measured rice and swirl around with your fingers a few seconds and pour out the cloudy water repeating four or five times until the water runs mostly clear. Finally pour a good amount of cold water over the rice and let it sit for 3 minutes to an hour. Soaking the rice improves the final product of both the rice and the katsudon this rice will be going into.
For your pork chops you want to first clean them by using a knife to scrape off any gunk left on them from the cutting process and also remove any bones. Save the bones for stock if you can by sticking them into the freezer for a cold day. After you have cleaned them, pat them dry with a paper towel and season with a little salt and white pepper. Set the pork aside while you prepare the sauce and get ready to bread them.
For the sauce chop up your white onion however you like it, but bigger long pieces work better in my opinion. Heat up an amount of water according to the instructions on the dashi flavoring packet and combine in a large bowl. If you have your own homemade dashi from scratch then please use that instead. Combine the onion, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and 1/2-1 cup of dashi until the white onions are covered and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more soy sauce or dashi as you like. Simmer mostly covered for 10-15 minutes until the onions are translucent.
Heat up your saute pan with plenty of neutral oil (vegetable or corn) Over medium heat. Bread your pork chops by flouring them, dipping them into one egg that has been whisked together and then coating them on all sides with Panko bread crumbs. Don’t do this step until you are ready to cook them, you don’t want your coating to get soggy while you wait for your pan to heat up. Cook your pork chops 4 minutes a side making sure both sides are nice and brown. Set them aside to rest while you finish the sauce.
Get two bowls filled up half way with rice you recently finished cooking. Take half of your sauce and put it into a small sauté pan, so you have two portions of sauce. Crack an egg into a small glass and whisk it up. Over medium heat add the egg to the sauce, do NOT stir, and repeat process with a second egg for the second portion. Slice your pork chops that have been resting up into 1 in. thick pieces and place over the rice. When the egg in the sauce is cooked through pour it all over the pork chop and garnish with parsley or shiso leaves if you have them.