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Here at RocketNews24, we’re all about forming stronger connections between Japan and the rest of the world. Incidentally, we’re also all about burgers and fried foods.

Sometimes, the planets align just right, and we get to check all three boxes at once, like we did today with our taste-test of McDonald’s new pork cutlet burger, a Westernized version of Japanese dish inspired by Western cuisine. And since the only thing better than a fried pork sandwich is two fried pork sandwiches, we’ll be comparing it to the nearly identical menu item from hometown hero Mos Burger.

First, a little background on what’s on our plates today. One of the most popular choices for a fortifying meal in Japan is tonkatsu – deep-fried pork cutlet (and not to be confused with tonkotsu, which is a pork bone-based broth used in some ramen dishes). While it’s now established itself as a traditional Japanese entre, tonkatsu was originally, like tempura, a take on deep-fried foods introduced by visiting Westerners. The “katsu” potion of the dish’s name is even a corrupted pronunciation of “cutlet.”

Tonkatsu is usually eaten with rice, but any number of restaurants and takeout joints in Japan also sell tonkatsu sandwiches, including domestic chain Mos Burger, where the roast katsu burger has been a popular menu item for years. McDonald’s isn’t willing to let Mos have the market to itself, though, and tossed its hat into the ring on May 7 with its new Tonkatsu McBurger.

Being extremely cheap individuals, we’d usually make a choice between the two based on which is less expensive. Of course, being equally gluttonous, we’ll also be needing some fries with our sandwiches, and here we run into a problem. McDonald’s charges 699 yen (US$6.85) for a tonkatsu burger combo that comes with a drink and fries, and Mos prices its similar set at 700. With just a single yen separating the two, we had no choice but to eat both and judge them on the basis of size and flavor.

Starting with the beverages, both sets come with medium soft drinks, and we couldn’t see a noticeable difference between their respective sizes.

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Moving on to the fries, Mos’ are thicker, but also a whole lot fewer in number than McDonald’s spuds. By weight, the Golden Arches are 30 percent more generous here, so score one point for them.

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Now, with the preliminaries out of the way, let’s start the main event. Tonkatsu burgers are pretty simple compared to ordinary beef-based burgers. There’s no sliced tomatoes or onions. You get the pork cutlet itself, some shredded cabbage, some sauce, and that’s all. Mos and McDonald’s both keep things orthodox by sticking to this short and sweet ingredient list.

▼ McDonalds (left) and Mos (right)

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Here again, McDonald’s gives you more bang for your buck. The tonkatsu McBurger tips the scales at 163 grams (5.7 ounces), compared to the 152-gram Mos roast katsu burger. An 11-gram difference may seem like the sort of thing only aerospace engineers and drug dealers would get worked up over, but that should give you an idea of how seriously we take our fast food.

▼ McDonald’s heavyweight

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▼ The svelte offering from Mos

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Science hasn’t perfected zero-calorie deep-fried pork yet (and when it does, we’ll have finally achieved a utopia), so it’s no surprise that McDonald’s burger packs more calories, with the tallies for the two sandwiches being 414 and 369, respectively. Somehow a seven percent difference in weight balloons into 12 percent higher calorie count, but really, would you expect anything less from the king of American fast food?

Now that we were done crunching numbers, it was time to eat. We started with the new kid in town, McDonald’s Tonkatsu McBurger.

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As we moved in for a bite, we suddenly became aware of a familiar scent. We’re guessing that McDonald’s cooks their tonkatsu in the same type of oil it uses for it French fries and fillet o’ fish, because it smells just like them. We could see this being a disappointment for those who are looking for a completely new experience, but long-time McDonald’s fans should feel right at home.

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The cutlet’s breading is crispy, and the sauce tastes like a sweeter version of what you’d get with an order of chicken McNuggets.

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Mos’ tonkatsu burger has a lot more shredded cabbage, which helps explain its lower calories to weight ratio. It also keeps its sauce between the cutlet and the veggies, giving it a cleaner appearance overall.

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While the tonkatsu McBurger is unmistakably a McDonald’s sandwich, there’s nothing about Mos’ sandwich that immediately gives away its origins, with the possible exception of the fluffy bun that’s the same as that used for the chain’s ordinary hamburgers.

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The sauce is less tangy and thus more in line with what you’d get if you ordered a pork cutlet with rice in a more traditionally Japanese restaurant. The breading also isn’t as crispy as the tonkatsu McBurger’s.

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In the end, it’s hard to call a winner one way or another, as both sandwiches are tasty in their own right. If you’re looking to get the most food for your yen, or if you just can’t get enough of McDonald’s, we doubt you’ll be disappointed with the chain’s new sandwich. On the other hand, if the smell of McDonald’s oil takes you back to unpleasant memories of being a part-time teenage fry cook, Mos has got you covered.

Photos: RocketNews24
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