Monday, February 8, 2010

Panko, Miso and Tonkatsu

Panko, Miso and Tonkatsu

Do you know what the 3 food items in the title mean? For those familiar with Japanese food, you should know at least 2 out of the 3. I'm not exactly good with preparing Japanese food but I do love the occasional Ramen or Miso soup.

Let's start with the easiest.. Miso. It is simply fermented soya beans. You will usually find packs of earth-coloured Miso paste in Japanese food supplies shop. When I was living in London, I discovered that one small pack of Miso goes a long way. It is relatively inexpensive as compared to most Japanese foodstuff. Miso has a distinct salty flavour with none of its bean aftertaste (but it does help you produce lots of wind). Miso is used widely in Japanese cuisine for flavouring dishes and soups. According to wikipedia, Miso can be made from more than just soybeans... barley and rice are the among the list of candidates. You can read the article to know more about it. For me, Miso Soup is typically served with small cubes of soya beancurd and wakame seaweed. Thanks to modern technology, I got mine in small instant packs including dehydrated spring onions!

Panko and Tonkatsu are deeply related to each other. One cannot make a decent Tonkatsu without Panko. So what is Panko? It is the Japanese word for breadcrumbs. From the picture, I guess you couldn't tell that it is breadcrumbs. Well, these breadcrumbs can only be made in a factory as the breads are not baked in a conventional oven but what is termed "Electromagnetic Baking". There is no brown crusts. So the resulting crumbs are airier, lighter and the fried products are crispier! If you take a close look at a pack of Panko, you will realise why! Each individual crumb is not short and round like a typical breadcrumb but it resembles an elongated razor. This creates a gap that will otherwise make a fried food oily and soggy!

Now to Tonkatsu. I did my homework and found that "Ton" is Japanese for Pork meat. So if you see it as part of a word on a Japanese food menu, you can safely assume it is pork! "Katsu" is simply a Japanese word for "Cutlet". So Tonkatsu is simply Pork Cutlet! I always love a good Tonkatsu in a Japanese restaurant because of its extremely light texture. I tried to replicate mine.. but I made a mistake of pan frying the cutlet.. So my poor Panko crumbs were flattened!!! Well.. it is much crispier than the usual brown breadcrumbs though! For those who haven't tried using Panko, save your money for purchasing breadcrumbs and invest in a pack of Panko please!


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