Day 13: Katsudon
Katsudon is an extremely popular dish that is, in essence, pretty simple. At its most basic, it is a large bowl of white rice with a deep-fried pork cutlet on top.
The pork is dipped in egg, covered in bread crumbs and than deep-fried. When it’s served on top of the rice it is cut into thin strips to make it easier to eat.
I’ve talked before about the pork cutlet itself, called tonkatsu, but this combination of the meat with the rice and an egg is such a prevalent dish in Japan, I thought it would be worth mentioning it again.
Normally the dish is also served with a broth that’s made from stock, sake, soy sauce and green onions. Often egg is included in the broth or poured directly into the bowl.
You really need either the broth or a sauce when eating this because it can be quite dry otherwise with just the breaded meat and the rice.
You can also get slight variations of katsudon that have different toppings – with Worcestershire sauce, demi-glace, soy sauce or miso, for example. And in some places you mind find the option of beef or chicken instead of pork.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re planning to sit any exams any time soon but, if you are, this would be a good thing to eat the night before. It’s a bit of a tradition with Japanese students that they eat katsudon before a big test.
But, no, it’s not because there’s some miracle brain power hidden in the pork cutlet. It’s for a rather geeky linguistic reason that the word ‘katsu’ is also the verb ‘to be victorious’. It would be like us eating pasta before an exam because it has the word ‘pass’ in it.
This katsudon was from a fast restaurant in the Tokyo suburb of Higashi-Shinjuku. It cost 460 yen (US$4.60) and you had to order it from a vending machine out the front of the shop. The meat wasn’t the best I’ve ever had – but I guess that’s what you get for a quick cheap meal.