toro katsu and more

Another birthday report, from the 6th: a sushi lunch at Kanpai (Lytton Ave. in downtown Palo Alto), a gift from Kim Darnell — with mostly standard items, but featuring toro katsu (and there lies a tale of borrowing words from one language to another). Photo of a man, bowl of miso soup in hand, seriously contemplating Japanese food, wanting a photo of the meal, and really not wanting a photo of himself:

(#1) The author with a Kanpai lunch special

Your left to right: bowl of miso soup, salad of fresh baby greens with Japanese dressing, toro katsu (with tonkatsu sauce, sriracha mayonnaise, and cooked broccoli floret), bowl of rice; then a platter of California roll and sashimi (tuna and salmon), mug of green tea (with images of sushi on it, labeled in Japanese and English), glass of Chardonnay. The side order of eel (unagi) sushi has not yet arrived.

Earlier on this blog: my 7/2 3/18 posting “furūtsu sando” (‘fruit sandwich’) had a section on katsu sandwiches, with katsu ‘fried cutlet’. The most common types of katsu: tonkatsu, pork cutlet (by far the most common, so that katsu by itself refers to tonkatsu); torikatsu, chicken; gyukatsu, beef (and wagyukatsu, prime beef). Served with brown tonkatsu sauce :


More on tonkatsu, from Wikipedia:

Tonkatsu … pork cutlet, is a Japanese dish which consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. The two main types are fillet and loin. It is often served with shredded cabbage.

… The word tonkatsu is a combination of the Sino-Japanese word ton (豚) meaning “pig” and katsu (カツ), which is a shortened form of katsuretsu (カツレツ), the [borrowing] of the English word cutlet, which [in turn] derived from French côtelette, meaning “meat chop”.

To summarize: French côtelette ‘chop’ (that is ‘a thick slice of meat, especially pork or lamb, adjacent to and often including a rib’ (NOAD) — the rib is etymologically significant, since the word is based on Latin costa ‘rib’) is borrowed into English as cutlet (‘a portion of sliced meat breaded and served either grilled or fried; a flat croquette of minced meat, nuts, or pulses, typically covered in breadcrumbs and fried’ (NOAD)); English cutlet is then borrowed into Japanese as katsuretsu, referring in tonkatsuretsu to a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet; katsuretsu is clipped to katsu; katsu is extended semantically from tonkatsu to meats — and fish — other than pork; and Bob’s your uncle: toro katsu,

like this toro katsu of rare maguro from the Meatman Nikuo Japanese restaurant / cafe / shop in South Jakarta, Indonesia:


The trick, and it’s no mean trick, is to get it crispy on the outside and rare (to whatever degree of rareness you want) on the inside.

At Kanpai the toro katsu comes with not only the brown sauce in #2 but also with a yellow sauce: Sriracha mayonnaise, Sriracha mayo for short.

We start with Sriracha (sauce). From Wikipedia:

(#4) The biggest US brand, from Huy Fong Foods (with a rooster on the label)

Sriracha … is a type of hot sauce or chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand, where it may have been first produced for dishes served at local seafood restaurants. [Its origin is uncertain.]

In Thailand, Sriracha is frequently used as a dipping sauce, particularly for seafood. In Vietnamese cuisine, Sriracha appears as a condiment for phở, fried noodles, a topping for spring rolls (chả giò), and in sauces.

Sriracha is also eaten in soup, on eggs and burgers. Jams, lollipops, and cocktails have all been made using the sauce, and Sriracha-flavored potato chips have been marketed.

That’s the sauce. Then to make the mayo from it.

For Sriracha mayo, combine grated garlic, mayonnaise, Sriracha (or any other hot sauce), lemon juice, and salt. Ah, but what mayo? It’s not Japanese Sriracha mayo if you don’t use Japanese mayo.  Yes, Japanese mayo is different from American mayo.

From the Pogogi (Japanese food) site on 7/31/12, in “What Is Japanese Mayonnaise and How Is It Different from American Mayo?”:

(#5) Kewpie brand Japanese mayonnaise

American Mayo is usually made from a soy-based vegetable oil along with water, eggs, distilled vinegar, salt, and sugar.  Some brands will add their own seasonings or even some lemon juice and dijon mustard but those are the primary ingredients.

Japanese mayonnaise also uses soy-based vegetable oil and many of the same ingredients. They don’t add water however and Japanese mayo uses apple or rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar. Japanese mayonnaise also uses egg yolks rather than whole eggs [so it’s yellow in color].

Using egg yolks and apple or rice vinegar and eliminating water gives Japanese mayonnaise a thicker texture than American mayonnaise and it is a rich and slightly sweet condiment. Some makers of Japanese mayonnaise also use monosodium glutamate which is a flavor enhancer that makes everything taste better.

American mayonnaise is typically used on sandwiches or hamburgers, mixed in with a can of tuna fish, used to make chicken salad, and is also used as a base for a number of other sauces. Japanese mayonnaise can be used in all of the same ways and it is commonly used to coat cooked vegetables and is often used as a side to a number of different Japanese dishes.

Japanese mayonnaise, pronounce in Japanese as Mayone-zu” or simply “mayo” (with a short “a” sound instead of the more familiar long “a”), is used in a number of other ways as well and some people think the Japanese might have an obsession with mayonnaise.

In Japan you can find mayo flavored ice cream, mayonnaise flavored snacks and potato chips, it can be used as a spaghetti sauce and it can be used as a topping for toast, noodles, even pancakes. If you think it will taste good, you really can put it on just about anything.

The Japanese fashion for mayo on almost everything seems to be relatively recent, having caught on in just the last 20 years or so.

One Response to “toro katsu and more”

  1. bebopple Says:

    Happy Birthday!

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