Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur
The idea for tofu katsu has been floating around in my head ever since I was treated to dinner at a Japanese restaurant by a vegetarian friend a few weeks ago. I love Asian food (or at least the heavily-tweaked American versions of it!), and one of my favorites has always been tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is essentially fried, panko-crusted pork, though in many restaurants I’ve seen a version with chicken as well. It’s usually served with a distinctive sauce which is vaguely reminiscent of ketchup, except far tastier.
Making this meal didn’t require me to go out of my way to buy any ingredients except for tofu. This makes it quite a handy recipe to have up my sleeve, since it means I don’t need to spend much money on grocery items specific to this meal, or run around to several stores to try to find all the ingredients I’ll need!
In attempting to create tofu katsu, my first step was to make a sauce. My first attempt was a failure. Not only did I realize that we were out of soy sauce and lacked ground mustard, but I put in Worcestershire sauce – which is not vegetarian. Whoops! Additionally, I tried using some applesauce in it, which wasn’t interesting so much as it tasted just weird.
The good news is my second attempt was very delicious and absolutely vegetarian! The bad news is that in my rush to assemble this second attempt with the bottle of soy sauce my roommate had just brought home for me and my dinner guest patiently waiting, I did not measure the ingredients and thus can’t share the exact proportions. It was roughly 1/4 cup of ketchup with a good splash of soy sauce, a light splash of rice wine vinegar, a squirt of Sriracha, and about 1/2 tsp each of granulated garlic and ground ginger. If you’re feeling adventuresome and willing to taste it as you go along, assembling your own sauce from these guidelines or other recipes online should be a cinch! Alternatively, many stores sell bottled katsu sauce, or you can enjoy this recipe with a simple side of soy sauce.
Katsu is usually served sliced over rice, so I mimicked that presentation in my own dish. For a little bit of color and additional nutrition, I chose boiled carrots as a side dish. Of course, you can serve tofu katsu with any vegetable you like, or just with rice. Whatever you do, tofu katsu makes for a delicious vegetarian meal!
10 oz firm tofu
2 tablespoons flour
Salt & pepper as desired
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Desired dipping sauce
Cut tofu into six rectangular pieces, each about 1/2” thick. Lay on a layer of paper towels, pressing another layer of paper towels on top gently, to remove some of the excess moisture.
Meanwhile, line up three shallow bowls, ideally one end near the stove and the other near the tofu. Starting with the bowl closest to the tofu, mix the flour with the salt and pepper. In the middle bowl, beat the egg. In the third bowl, spread out the panko.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet to medium heat. With each piece of tofu, dip it in the flour, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs before placing it in the heated skillet. Cook until golden brown, between 3-5 minutes per side.
Let tofu cool 1 minute. Slice into strips and serve over rice, with a side of katsu sauce or soy sauce.
Makes three servings.
Cost per serving: $0.65
Calories per serving: 235
If served with brown jasmine rice and boiled carrots as pictured, the cost per person is $1.03 and the calories per person go up to 415. Cost and calories of sauce not included.