As you probably know, the venerable sandwich was invented a couple of centuries ago by an English aristocrat, the Earl of Sandwich. He charged his cook with creating a satisfying meal that he could eat at the table while gambling his money away. And voila, the original sandwich - slices of meat between two slices of bread - was born. The "sandwich" has never looked back and has gone down in history as probably the most convenient and versatile fast food ever invented.
I like to think that if the Earl of Sandwich was alive and kicking today, he would rank the Japanese "sando" (that's the way the Japanese say "sandwich") up there with the best variations on his original idea.
So what makes the Japanese katsu sando great? Well, first there is your "katsu", a cutlet of pork, seasoned with salt and pepper and coated with Japanese panko breadcrumbs which turn a beautiful golden colour when deep fried. Your pork cutlet - I use pork loin - should be quite thin cut. This means it will fry quickly without the risk of burning your golden breaded coating. It also means the cutlet will be slender enough to make a nicely proportioned "sando."
Once you've created your "katsu", you should prepare your bread. Now I am not a true stickler for tradition so I will happily make a katsu sando using brown bread but if you want true authenticity, you have to go with white bread. You should also remove the crusts - but again, if you like crusty bread, feel free to leave the crusts intact.
As well as salt and pepper, a self respecting katsu sando will be further seasoned with a spread of mustard on one of the bread slices and a generous squeeze of brown sauce (Japanese bulldog sauce, of course!) over the katsu. It only remains then to add some lettuce leaves and a little cucumber and to close your sando with its second slice of bread. And there you have it, one of the best sandwiches you will ever experience.
There are a couple of other things I should mention however.
First - to butter or not to butter? This again is a personal preference. In my opinion, a true katsu sando doesn't need the additional richness of buttered bread so I dispense with it. On the other hand, I know other people who think buttered bread is a must and if you are one of them, then feel free to butter your slices of bread.
Second - to toast or not to toast. You'll find a lot of katsu sando recipes these days which are toasted. But IMO, they aren't truly katsu sando, they are toasted katsu sando, which is as different as a cheese toastie is to a cheese sandwich. I'm not sure when the toasted katsu sando entered the food lexicon - I did hear that a rather sly sandwich maker devised it as a way of using stale bread in his sando - but, as I am not a cynical type, I choose to believe that it was simply that someone thought - well, why not? - and in the wonderful, democratic world of cooking, I am 100% for that!
Anyway, if you would like to try your hand at making a delicious katsu sando, you can find my Youtube tutorial by clicking katsu sando or by scrolling to the bottom of the page. You can find the written recipe just below.
Happy cooking! Kurumi XXXX.
(makes 2 katsu sando)
1 medium egg
40-50 g / 1.75 oz panko breadcrumbs
40g / 1.5 oz plain flour
3cm/ 1.5 inch of cucumber
1 small gem lettuce
2 boneless pork loin steak
salt & pepper
4 thin slice of white or brown bread
brown sauce (preferably Japanese Bull-dog brand)
some vegetable oil for frying
a sheet of cling film
crack the egg into a bowl and give it a rough whisk
cut the cucumber into 10 - 12 thin slices
break of 4 - 6 small lettuce leaves
lay your pork steaks on a cutting board. season generously with salt & pepper on both sides. next, cover the steaks with a sheet of cling film, using the back of a kitchen knife, tenderise the steaks for 15 - 20 seconds. this will prevent the steaks curling up when you deep fry them
put the plain flour into a tupperward or a plate. give each steak a good coating of flour. then, dip the steak into the beaten egg, making sure the meat is covered in the egg. next dip the steaks in the panko breadcrumbs. you can use your fingers here to press the breadcrumbs onto the steaks to make sure you get a uniform coating
to deep fry, heat about 2cm / 1 inch of vegetable oil in a saucepan to 170 C / 340 F
fry your first tonkatsu for about 2 - 3 minutes until the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown
using chopsticks or kitchen tongs, turn the tonkatsu. adjust the heat if the oil is getting too feisty. fry for another 2 - 3 minutes by which time your steak should be cooked
remove the steak and rest on a rack. repeat for your second tonkatsu
once your tonkatsu are both ready, take 4 slices of bread, removing the crust (if you prefer)
spread a generous knifeful of English mustard onto two slices of the bread. place the tonkatsu onto the mustard. next, squeeze out some Japanese Bull-dog sauce over the tonkatsu
dress with the sliced cucumber and some lettuce leaves and, finally, top with the two other slices of bread to create your katsu sando!