September 26, 2010

International Bento (Japan): Tonkatsu Bento

As promised, a bento which ventures into Japanese content. In this case, the bento is an exact redux of the dinner from the night before (see below): tonkatsu, Japanese rice, miso-glazed carrots, and gingered daikon salad. The vegetable content was a little light, as I intended to combine the carrots with lotus root slices (very pretty together!) but failed to acquire the lotus root on my way home. Next time, I mean to do a combination of carrot, lotus, and burdock (gobo). The preparation is much like a kinpira, but with a little red miso mixed with water and sesame oil added in and reduced until it glazes the vegetable pieces. An extra vegetable, maybe something green to balance out the meal, too - perhaps a little finely chopped snow-pea "coleslaw", made in a vaguely sunomono-like fashion, would be a good addition here.

I'm very fond of tonkatsu, a breaded, shallow-fried pork cutlet, in this case made from a slightly pounded pork sirloin chop. The conventional flour/ dip in egg / dredge in crumbs is employed, using panko, the airy, coarse style of breadcrumb that gives Japanese breaded foods a delightfully fuzzy appearance. For the recipe, I refer you to Maki's excellent site Just Hungry, the sister site to Just Bento, which is a favourite resource for my forays into Japanese cuisine.

The little fish-shaped sauce bottle in the bento is filled with a Tonkatsu sauce which Palle assembled after perusing various recipes online and taking the best of them to form a hybrid (his favourite way to cook). I don't think he noted it down, though, so the next iteration might be quite different, depending on how well he remembers what he did. The little fish-bottle is one of a veritable school of fish bottles I got in a little box from a Japanese dollar-type store here in Vancouver. They are generally used for soy sauce, or other smooth and not-too-thick sauces that can be loaded by suction through the fish's "mouth". A bargain at two dollars for a box of them (if one doesn't make it home, I'm not too broken up by it).

If you recall my Fear of Frying post, you will know that this involves more oil and temperature control issues than I am strictly comfortable with, so making the Tonkatsu also helped me push my boundaries and further develop my frying skills. To be fair, I made a crash decision to shallow-fry the cutlets instead, using about an inch of oil in a large skillet, based on a different recipe that I found in a cookbook. The first two of the four cutlets I cooked were beautiful, but I had my predictable troubles controlling the heat for the second batch. The cutlets were all delicious, but the second batch were considerably less attractive.

More practice is clearly in order, but I was really happy with how well this turned out.

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