In the previous article, we’ve introduced a variety of Japanese sauces popular and essential in cooking Japanese cuisines. It might be interesting that tonkatsu (a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet) became one of the standard Japanese dishes in spite of the fact that it’s actually originated from Western dishes sharing similarity with German schnitzel, French cotelette, or Italian Milanese. If tonkatsu wasn’t widely accepted in Japan, the tonkatsu sauces wouldn’t exist in the Japanese market nowadays.
This article focuses more on tonkatsu sauce. We’ll introduce this commonly consumed Japanese sauce in the following order:
- An introduction of tokatsu sauce
- Ingredients and recipe of tonkatsu sauce
- Taste of tonkastu sauce
- Health benefits of tonkastu sauce
- A guide on how to make an original tonkatsu sauce
- The tonkatsu sauces available at Japanese Taste
What is tonkatsu sauce?
Tonkatsu sauce is literally served with tonkatsu, and made with a mixture of fruits, vegetables, spices, and vinegar featuring excellent balance of sweetness and sourness with a spicy aftertaste. Tonkatsu sauce basically has aromatic and tangy flavor with a viscous texture that goes perfectly well with bread-coated pork as well as cabbage (a standard garnish used for tonkastu dish) and white rice.
It's said that the tonkatsu sauce originates from Worcestershire sauce. When the nationwide and rapid Westernization took place in Japan during Meiji period (1867-1911), Japanese imported a custom of consuming meat, and this was the first step Worcestershire sauce gained popularity among Japanese, which eventually led to the introduction of tonkatsu sauce that suits Japanese people’s taste. The major difference between tonkatsu sauce and Worcestershire sauce is tonkatsu sauce is usually thicker in texture while Worcestershire sauce is spicier in taste, but both can be a great accompaniment to tonkatsu and other deep-fried dishes.
How tonkatsu sauce is made
As it turns out, tonkatsu sauce first comes with simmered veggies and fruits, then seasonings including vinegar, spices, sugar, and salt are added. While ingredients and cooking methods vary depending on the sauce manufacturers or chefs who run specialty tonkatsu restaurants, here's one typical example of how it's made according to Bull-Dog, one of the largest tonkatsu sauce producers in Japan.
First, selected vegetables and fruits (in case of Bull-Dog, they use tomato, onion, carrot, apple, lemon, prune, etc.) will be processed in the following order: wash, mince, stew, strain, and mill finely. After these processes, seasonings like salt, sugars, and vinegar are added, which later becomes a base solution of tonkatsu sauce. Then the spices are added to adjust the taste.
The taste of tonkatsu sauce
Tonkatsu sauce has a complex flavor of sweetness, sourness, and pungency. Its sweet taste majorly comes from fruits and vegetables; sour taste from vinegar; and its spicy punch based on spices. Although tonkatsu sauce is relatively full-bodied compared with other Japanese sauces like soy sauce and dipping sauce for gyoza (jioazi) dumpling, soba, or somen, it’s not extremely heavy. Another advantage of tonkatsu sauce in terms of taste is it’s resistant to quality deterioration and oxidization thanks to vinegar, salt, and spices. However, for best quality and longer expiration date, it’s recommended to refrigerate tonkatsu sauce once opened.
Health benefits of tonkatsu sauce
Since tonkatsu sauce is basically made out of vegetables and fruits, it’s healthy for condiments. But it’s actually the vinegar that makes tonkatsu sauce beneficial to your health because it not only prevents the sauce from bacteria contact, but also effective for recovering the appetite and improves physical fatigue. Vinegar also supports efficient calcium absorption; thus, if you add tonkatsu sauce on deep-fried seafoods, you can further enhance your health. Furthermore, most tonkatsu sauces contain spices, which have some medicinal effects. However, keep in mind that a mere tablespoonful (15ml≒0.5 us fl oz) of tonkatsu sauce accounts for roughly 20% of the recommended daily salt intake set by the WHO.
Other fancy usages of tonkatsu sauce
Tonkatsu sauce is originally and literally designed to season tonkatsu, but that doesn’t mean this sauce is exclusively for tonkatsu. It goes quite well with many deep-fried breaded meats regardless of pork, chicken, beef, and fish. Since Japan is an insulated country and traditionally has a custom of consuming marine products, there’re even some deep-fried seafoods many Japanese enjoy like aji furai (deep-fried horse mackerel), hotate furai (deep-fried scallop) and kaki furai (deep-fried oyster). Its spicy aroma and tangy taste are helpful in reducing fishy smell and makes these easier to eat.
The other fancy ways of using the tonkatsu sauce are seasoning for sunny-side up egg, salad (especially when cabbage is included), or meuniere. You can even use it as a secret ingredient of beef stew, or creating an original demiglace sauce by blending with sautéed onion, red wine, butter, and ketchup.
Recipe of original tonkatsu sauce
If your hobby is cooking and wish to make your original tonkatsu sauce, here is the recipe and guidance. Although the following is pretty different from the standard tonkatsu sauces available at supermarkets, it can be a great accompaniment to tonkatsu.
It’s super easy, just prepare Worcestershire sauce, ketchup (or tomato sauce), soy sauce, sugar, and mustard, then mix them together in a bowl until it gets thick and smooth. If you prefer less pungent sauce, it’s okay to reduce or remove mustard. You can make the sauce more viscous by adding wheat mixed with water or a corn starch. To make your sauce healthier, add some sesame seeds.
Tonkatsu sauces available at Japanese Taste
Our store offers several kinds of tonkatsu sauce that is useful enough to experience one of the common Japanese sauces at your home. Take a look on each sauce below and should you start to have an interest, buy it and try it to some deep-fried breaded foods.
1. Bull-Dog Japanese Tonkatsu Sauce Regular 300ml
For beginners of tonkatsu sauce, this product is the best choice. Again, Bull-Dog is the one of the most popular sauce brands in Japan and this tonkatsu sauce is their best-seller. Rich in vegetables and fruits, 30% of the sauce contents consists of vinegar making this tonkatsu sauce healthy, and has a blend of 7 spices. Another reason we recommend Bull-Dog sauces is it’s additive free, non-oil, and less salted. Enjoy the taste of natural ingredients with your dishes. We also offer 500ml version.
2. Bull-Dog Vegetable Fruit All Purpose Semi-Sweet Sauce 300ml
There's another tonkatsu sauce variation called chuno (pronunciation: chuu-nou, literally translated as “middle-thick”) sauce. This is another sauce unique to Japan often used for tonkatsu and other deep-fried dishes. Imagine that if Worcestershire sauce features smooth and spicy while tonkatsu sauce being thick and sweet, chuno sauce is an intermediate type between these two.
Chuno sauce is perfect for those who feel the standard tonkatsu sauce is too thick and heavy. Its mild flavor and faint viscousness suits well with any dish. Chuno-type sauce also goes very nice with grilled meat dishes like meatloaf, hamburger patty, and meatball.
3. Oliver Tonkatsu Sauce 360g
This tonkatsu sauce is developed by Oliver Sauce who're based in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture (Western side of Japanese mainland adjacent to Osaka). It’s said that this product is the very first tonkatsu sauce invented and introduced in Japan. Oliver’s sauces are not commonly available at the eastern Japan, so our shop is a good chance to experience the taste of tonkatsu sauce preferred in western side of Japan.
Less sweet than the average tonkatsu sauce but has a strong spicy punch that can be used for okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) or takoyaki (octopus dumplings), which are commonly eaten in the western Japan. The texture is quite thick that it makes your dish richer and more full-bodied. A set of 3 bottles is also available.