Sunday, 28 June 2009

Tonkatsu with Japanese-ish Salad

In my handbag I have a red notebook. In the notebook are various scrawls and doodles that categorise my life at any given time. The current notebook has a few shopping lists, a pictorial representation of our holiday in Florence, and a record of how far I ran in January. It also has a list of hard-to-find ingredients I am always on the lookout for.

The two items that refused to be knocked off the list were freeze-dried raspberries (Ideally powdered, but I'll take whole. I would also be tempted by freeze-dried strawberries.) and panko breadcrumbs. I'd tried the Thai store in Bruntsfield, but to no avail (they did have kaffir lime leaves though, so that got crossed off the list). Lupe Pintos was also lacking on this occasion.

The area of Edinburgh I live in is apparently the "Chinatown" area, although you wouldn't know it. The only clue is Hot Hot Chinese, an advice centre for elderly Chinese, and the Chinese service at the local church. The evidence is there, but there are no dragon arches and bilingual signs like some of the more established Chinatowns around the world. I came to the conclusion that if I was to find panko, it would probably be available within a 10 minute walk. Googling around, I found there was a Chinese supermarket hidden on Lauriston Place at the junction with Tollcross.

I headed down there the next day. Within a minute I'd found not one, but two varieties of panko. Yay! I went for the one that was cheaper, I think because it didn't have English instructions on the packet. There were loads of other weird ingredients in there, plus a good selection of utensils and woks. There was also a large section dedicated to nearly every brand of pre-made stir-fry sauce you can get. I have never seen so many varieties of Blue Dragon and Sharwoods in one place.

So... On to the actual post!

I had some pork chops in the freezer that I wanted to use, and the only recipe in the Wagamama cookbook that used them was tonkatsu. I've never had this, so I thought I'd give it a go. I promised T "crispy Japanese pork" for dinner, but conveniently forgot to tell him that it would be served on a salad.

Tonkatsu: Slightly out of focus as I was impatient to eat

Overall, I don't think this dish really worked. The tonkatsu was pretty tasty (and it's the first time I've breadcrumbed something where the breadcrumbs stayed mostly on the meat and not in a pile in the pan) and I quite liked the crispiness of the salad too. It's also the first dish on here to feature a mangetout! However, I wasn't convinced by the recommended sauce, a mixture of ketchup and Worcester sauce, although it did taste weirdly Asian given the total Britishness of the two component ingredients.

The main failing was pairing the salad with the pork. Although Wikipedia has just told me tonkatsu can be eaten cold, it felt strange having a lukewarm piece of meat on a freezing salad (all the ingredients except the spinach were kept in iced water to ensure their crispiness).

T was not interested in the salad at all, and I struggled to finish mine. I would probably make it all again, but have it on different plates. The tonkatsu would be really tasty with some stir-fried vegetables or on a ramen soup, while the salad would be better accessorized with some smoked fish and lots of dressing.

I now have a fridge full of daikon, spinach and bamboo shoots and a cupboard full of panko... more Japanese food to come soon I guess!

Japanese Style Salad (adapted from Wagamama Cookbook)
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 veg lovers.

2 small carrots, julienned
4 inch chunk of daikon (mooli), julienned
25g mangetout, thinly sliced diagonally
1 green chilli, finely diced
8-9 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
a handful of alfafa sprouts
3 handfuls of spinach

1) Once all the vegetables have been washed and chopped, place everything but the spinach in a bowl of ice water for an hour to ensure their crispiness.
2) Using the spinach as a base, artfully arrange the drained vegetables on top.
3) Add the toppings and dressings of your choice.