Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Beef Katsu by Erique Fat Owl - 2nd attempt to overcome my Tonkichi craving

If you have read my last post, you would know that I was having a Tonkichi craving. I had some hire katsu in Ichiban Boshi restaurant 2 days ago in an attempt to remedy this craving, but sadly, Ichiban Boshi's katsu is far inferior compared to Tonkichi's to cure my craving. Dissatisfied with the result, I decided to take it to the extreme level: ATTEMPTING TO COOK THE PERFECT TONKATSU. (well, actually, I'm gonna make a BEEF katsu).

Step 1: Went to Tokyo Mart in Northbridge
-> This supermarket is the largest supermarket in Sydney that stocks Japanese-made foodstuffs EXCLUSIVELY. This separates Tokyo Mart from just some other Asian grocers in Sydney, where Japanese foodstuffs only comprise 30% of their stocked items. This supermarket is BLOODY FAR from my place (it's almost 1 hour drive away), but hey, if I'm attempting to make the best beef katsu ever, sacrifices had to be made.

I just adore this place!! Doesn't the entrance just scream, "Irasshaimase"???

I bought some panko, katakuriko (potato starch) and also, the all-important Nagoya-style MISO SAUCE. I have never bought this sauce before, and hopefully, it's similar to Tonkichi's miso sauce. I also bought a DEMIGLACE SAUCE (another one of my favorite ingredients)

Step 2: The Butcher's.
-> After spending 50 bucks on a super impulse-buying trip to that Japanese food haven (the stuff that I bought are mostly excessive, un-neccessary food ingredients that I bought just because they're Japanese rather than because I needed them), It's time to get the main ingredient - the beef.The reason why I chose beef rather than pork is because I can cook beef to my desired degree of done-ness (beef can be eaten raw after all). If I use pork, I would have to cook it toroughly and without the proper technique, the meat can get pretty tough (even if I'm working with pork fillet, the tender-est of pork cuts). So, with my current cooking skill, it's best if I try beef before attempting pork.Since I'm feeling mighty extravagant, I decided to go all the way with purchasing the beef. Now most people would just get cheap rump or round steak (or even those mysteriously very cheap, beaten-up-to-flat-slice schnitzel cut) to make beef katsu. But oh no, not for me. Guess what did I get? a sirloin? nah. porterhouse? not even close. I got myself a WAGYU fillet, the most expensive variety of the most expensive cut of beef (at least here in Australia). Now there's many other expensive beef cuts in the world, such as the Japanese Kobe beef or Matsuzaka beef, but since Australia put an embargo on imported meat, Aussie Wagyu is pretty much the best I can get. For those who don't know, Wagyu beef is a slightly-aged local beef but the cattle is grown using Japanese technique like feeding them with wine and beer instead of just plain ol' water. BTW, Wagyu -> "Wa" means "Japan" and "Gyu" means "Beef".

To be honest, I think wagyu fillet is the best choice for beef katsu, because even if you use a very expensive Kobe beef, the result won't be as good. Kobe beef is a VERY marbled beef (means that there's a LOT of fat content). If you breadcrumb and deep-fry Kobe beef, it will:

  1. Be an awful waste of money. All those breadcrumbs, oil and sauces will cover up and destroy the natural aroma of Kobe beef. When you're buying Kobe beef, you're paying 200 bucks a pound for the aroma.
  2. Yield an undesirable result. Since it's high on fat, it will make the breadcrumb wet and soggy soon after you cut the katsu (because of the fatty oil running out of the beef). We want a CRISPY breadcrumb crust, now don't we.
  3. Be killed by Japanese chefs. Everybody knows that Kobe beef should only be grilled in order to fully appreciate it. Just like Matsutake mushrooms, Kobe beef is the pride and joy of Japan and people won't be happy if you mistreat it.

Therefore, Wagyu fillet (or any type of beef fillet) would be the BEST choice. When cooking beef katsu, aroma isn't the main concern. in fact, beef katsu should have just a tad undertone of beef aroma instead of powerful taste generated by beef fats. The most important thing about choosing beef for katsu is TEXTURE and tenderness. For texture, nothing beats wagyu fillet.

This piece of fillet costs me $16! Look at how goregeous it is!

Step 3: cooking.
-> In cooking, I use a special technique that I invented myself. the secret is to use a mixture of beef stock, egg, and potato starch to coat the beef before dunking it on breadcrumbs. I use peanut oil for deep-frying, since it's the best type of oil for deep-frying. (don't be over-extravagant like by using olive oil, it's useless. I got this tip from Jamie Oliver).

I also prepared a cabbage salad to accompany the tonkatsu. This time, I'm using purple cabbage because it looks pretty. (to be honest, after I shred it, it looks like my mom's sauerkraut!!). The dressing I use is the "Koube ichibankan arahiki kin goma dressing" (coarse-grinded golden sesame dressing). It's basically a glorified, sweetened goma (sesame) dressing mixed with a little bit of mayonnaise. (Cla, this is probably what you're looking for. BTW, the brand is "Kenko Mayonnaise"). Apparently, judging from the name, this type of dressing is a speciality in Kobe City.

And on the right side pic, it's the miso sauce I bought for the katsu. The name of the product is "Nagoya meibutsu misokatsu no tare" (Nagoya's speciality miso katsu sauce). The picture on the sauce packet made me salivating already.

Ja-jaannn...here's the finished product.

Notice the perfect degree of done-ness of this katsu!! I guess I'm really an expert, huh. (years of experimenting with katsu has finally paid off).

Now the verdict. (geez, It's like IRON CHEF or something...)
  1. The crust is a tad too soft, but crunchy nevertheless. it's because of instead using a drying rack (which I don't have), I used paper towel to absorb the excess oil after frying. This made the crust a bit soggy on one side.
  2. My biggest mistake is to NOT rest the meat for awhile after cooking to allow the liquids inside re-distribute a little bit. As a result, when I cut the katsu, liquid and blood came out, messing it up a bit. But it's okay, really.
  3. The sauce is quite amazing. not as good as Tonkichi's, but nevertheless very good. Someday, I have to find out how to make this miso sauce by myself.
  4. The beef texture is AMAZING. it's tender, cooked to perfection. I certainly got what I paid for. Sasuga wagyu da yo ne.
  5. The salad complements well with the dish. But to be honest, I prefer tonkatsu sauce dressing rather than this goma dressing, though. 6. I forgot to make the karashi (hot mustard paste), which is my favorite condiment for Tonkatsu. I also have no tsukemono (pickles).
So, all in all, I'm quite happy with this dish I made. In fact, I think this dish is good enough to be sold (which boosts my pride a bit. Maybe I'll even open a tonkatsu restaurant someday. Moo moo and Cla can be the co-owners). The only thing that sets this dish apart from Tonkichi is the CRUST. Tonkichi's crust is amazzzing. It's crunchy, solid, and tasty. The solid-ness of Tonkichi's crust is perhaps their greatest achievement. Maybe they make their own breadcrumbs in the restaurant.

This dish is enough to surpress my Tonkichi craving for awhile. At least until I visit Singapore in 1 month time.


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