The inspiration for this week’s recipe, Pork Katsu with Pickled Cucumbers and Shiso, came from a local Japanese restaurant that serves katsu. While I usually go for the chicken variant of this dish, I decided pork, something I don’t cook with a lot, would be more in the spirit of the culinary journey I’ve been on for 24 weeks.
Prepping the Dish
The most time consuming part of prepping this dish was pounding out the pork. I hate doing this because it’s always a loud process, but it had to be done. I was surprised by just how long this ended up taking, but I wasn’t in a rush as I made the dish as a late Saturday lunch. If there was a machine that could precisely, quickly and quietly do this task for me, I’d be happy.
Thankfully, nothing else was as violent or as loud and the rest of the dish came together quickly. The dressing for the cucumbers passed the taste test (more on that later), while the standout of the frying dredge was the egg wash that had tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Having just assembled the dressing, I really wanted to see if it tasted as good as it smelled. With much restraint, I withheld the temptations.
Cooking the Dish
The pork was the only thing for this dish that needed to be cooked and that process was a straightforward one. I just needed to keep track of the cook time and add more oil to the pan as necessary (batch cooking was obviously required). About three minutes on each side was all that was needed before each piece was placed on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Once the pork was done, I tossed the cucumbers with the dressing and it was time to plate and eat.
I took a small bite of the pork and it tasted pretty chewy. A look under the bread showed it was still undercooked. I quickly realized I didn’t pound the pork as thin as the recipe called for. This meant I needed to adjust my cook times, a reality that didn’t dawn on me until then. With that, it was back in the skilled for a little more cooking.
My second bite was far more promising. The richness and tang from the Worcestershire was noticeable and the breading clung perfectly to the pork, which hadn’t dried out. Overall, the pork didn’t look as thin as intended, and more closely resembled a Flintstone presentation than a pounded version. Next time, I’ll definitely want to make more of an effort to pound these to the correct thickness. The other thing I’ll do is serve this with a lemon wedge to brighten and lighten the dish up. Not that the dish was screaming for citrus, but this touch (the aforementioned restaurant serves their chicken katsu with this) is always welcomed in my book and adds a nice color.
To my incredible surprise, the star of this dish was the cucumbers, and specifically the quick dressing. So often, sesame oil can overpower everything, but that wasn’t the case here; everything was balanced and tasted delightful! I think I also like this part of the dish so much because it calls for the smaller Kirby cucumbers. For a while, I’ve wanted to like cucumbers beyond pickles, which I love. In this dish, I think I’ve found what I was looking for.
Prepping the pork takes some time, but is definitely worth the effort for the flavor. As a bonus: an abundance of leftovers and freezer-friendly! But the real star of this culinary show is the cucumbers. Cool, crisp, and a great flavor profile, these cucumbers are some of the best I’ve had. If nothing else, take the few minutes to make these – you won’t be disappointed!
Pork Katsu With Pickled Cucumbers
Time: 30 minutes Yields: 6-8
- ½ pound small Kirby cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, more for seasoning
- 1 ¼ teaspoons sugar
- 8 thin slices boneless pork medallions or center-cut pork chops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cups panko crumbs
- ½ cup flour
- Black pepper
- Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced shiso or basil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil
- Place the cucumbers in a colander set over a bowl. Toss them with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon sugar.
- Place each piece of pork between sheets of waxed paper. Pound meat to 1/8-inch thickness.
- Place eggs in a large shallow bowl; whisk in the Worcestershire and tomato paste. Place the panko and flour in two separate shallow bowls.
- Season cutlets with salt and pepper. Dip each cutlet in the flour (tap off excess), the egg mixture (ditto), then dredge in panko crumbs.
- Heat a large pan, pour in 1/8 inch of oil and heat for 30 seconds. Working in batches, put cutlets in the pan. Immediately shake and tilt it so the oil rolls over the pork in waves (this will give it a lighter, crisper crust). Shake the pan occasionally, until cutlets are golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip them and shake again. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer pork to a paper-towel-lined platter to drain.
- Pat the cucumbers dry with paper towels. Toss with scallions, vinegar, shiso, soy sauce, sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Serve cutlets with pickled cucumbers on the side.