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Saturday August 2, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday August 2, 2014 MYT 10:30:23 AM
by louisa lim
Japan's favourite meat dish is best enjoyed with this house-made apple cider sauce. - Photos CHAN TAK KONG/The Star
Tonkatsu serves up dishes that tease the eyes and tummy.
IT’S deep-fried. It’s sinful. And most importantly, it’s nothing like your usual Japanese food.
We’re talking about schnitzel à la Japonais, or tonkatsu. When a restaurant chooses to name itself after one of the most popular meat dishes in Japan, one can pretty much expect what’s on the menu. Having opened its doors three years ago when no other restaurant was serving similar food, Tonkatsu by Wa Kitchen sparked a craze for this little-known – and highly underrated – grub in Malaysia.
Little wonder, because it’s oh-so-good and not at all oily. This is because head chef Chan Soi Fong has spent the past seven years in a restaurant in Shinjuku, learning the special art of precision cooking. His secret? Marinate the meat for 24 hours and fry it at a high temperature for a specific number of minutes. This prevents it from absorbing too much oil and grease.
“In Japan, the best tonkatsu is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. It doesn’t have a cloying aftertaste because it isn’t oily,” he says.
It seems like learning from the best has paid off: Chan’s fried pork cutlets are tender and lovely. Whether it’s the hire katsu (or breaded pork fillet) or rosu katsu (breaded pork loin), the meat’s crispy golden brown crust teases the eyes and tummy.
Paired with a highly addictive sweet-sour sauce made from apple cider – it took Chan more than a month to come up with the perfect recipe – the result is nothing short of mesmerising.
“It takes three and a half hours to cook the sauce. We make it from scratch,” says Chan, beaming.
This is the first thing to arrive at your table, along with a pestle and mortar to grind the sesame seeds with. You’re encouraged to crush the seeds inside the bowl before adding the sauce – the pleasant aroma released by this action is designed to whet your appetite and make you hungry. Once the meat is served – sliced, for even cooking and easy handling with chopsticks – you dip it into the mix. Just be sure not do overdo it.
“Over in Japan, the people use sauces to enhance the taste but in Malaysia, we love our sauces to the extent that it conceals the real taste of the food,” says Chan. “I don’t recommend that.”
The fried pork cutlet also appears in other guises. It comes immersed in a rich and also house-made curry sauce (katsu curry) or served Japanese comfort food-style, over rice with onions and egg sauce (katsu don).
For variety, the restaurant also substitutes pork for chicken (chicken katsu) or seafood like salmon, oysters, scallops and prawns (seafood furai) – the latter being a real treat. There’s also tonpei yaki, a divine dish that resembles Okonomiyaki or Japanese savoury pancakes with its melt-in-your-mouth pork belly swaddled in eggs, mayo and sliced cabbage; as well as buta kushiyaki, or skewers of grilled pork belly.
All dishes – except the ala carte options – come in a set, with generous helpings of sliced cabbage, tofu, pickled vegetables and miso soup. And here’s the good news: you can always request for more rice and veg so you’ll never walk out hungry.
Watsons VIP Card members enjoy 10% off the total bill on food only.
Tonkatsu by Wa Kitchen
Lot 6.12.00, Level 6
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2144 2992
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Tonkatsu, Tonkatsu by Wa Kitchen, Chan Soi Fong
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