Your mouth will never be lonely again.

In Japanese there is a term “kuchisabishii” which means “lonely mouth” and refers to those times when you’re not really hungry but still feel like eating something. It’s a term as adorable as it is deadly to your waistline, for the best cures for kuchisabishii are often loaded with calories.

It’s a dilemma that seasoned chipmaker Koikeya has been working hard to rectify, and now they have just the thing to keep lonely mouths company in Innocent Tonkatsu. These are bite-sized pieces of fried pork cutlet reduced to only 129 calories per bag.

Of course, to accomplish this no pork was used to make Innocent Tonkatsu, rather the high protein substitute of soy was enlisted, giving each bag the added benefit of room temperature storage. The package also boasts five grams of protein and nine grams of sugar per serving.

Innocent Tonkatsu was released at convenience stores nationwide on 28 June and supermarkets from 5 July, so our writer Daiki Nishimoto went out to try a bag for 159 yen (US$1.45).

Upon opening it up, Daiki’s nose was greeted with the pleasantly unmistakable aroma of tonkatsu sauce. Innocent Tonkatsu was made with the assistance of the Tonkatsu Wako chain of fried pork cutlet restaurants, so the authenticity of its flavor seemed well intact.

He then pulled out a tiny pork cutlet, though perhaps “baby tonkatsu” would be a more appropriate name. It looked and smelled just like a cutlet, but didn’t seem fully developed yet.

Especially when looking at it from its side, it was very thin. This was indeed just a snack food that was toying with Daiki’s preconceptions of fried pork cutlets. It was certainly impressive to look at though, and he was amazed with Koikeya’s food replication wizardry.

However, after taking a bite, his heart sank. Although it had the rich flavor of tonkatsu sauce, the texture was nothing like the real thing. “This is not a pork cutlet,” was the only thing Daiki could think when sinking his teeth into something clearly labeled as “tonkatsu.”

It was dry and crispy, but not crispy like a real tonkatsu’s breaded coating sometimes is, but crispy like a chip. It was certainly flavored like tonkatsu though, and after some chewing his saliva mixed in to give the illusion of juiciness, for whatever that was worth.

The whole thing left Daiki feeling conflicted, it was like a little tonkatsu and yet it was also nothing like one. Still, the fact that you can eat something remotely close to a fried pork cutlet and not feel heavy in the stomach afterward is a good thing.

The other downer is that there’s only eight in a bag. That’s probably for the best since this is marketed as a light snack, but it will almost certainly leave you wanting more.

It just goes to show that if you’re going to make a lightweight version of fried pork, you’re going to have to crack a few expectations, and this is no exception. Surely some lovers of tonkatsu will be let down by this snack that looks and smells like tonkatsu, and that also is labeled as “tonkatsu” with pictures of tonkatsu on it.

But if you instead see it as a completely new kind of snack that simply draws inspiration from tonkatsu, you can more easily understand what a tasty treat it is in its own right. It certainly gave Daiki’s mouth the company it needed in its time of kuchisabishii.

Related: Koikeya
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