Diners are shocked to learn they’ve been eating tonkatsu the wrong way all their lives.

Tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) is a hugely popular meal in Japan, where it’s usually served alongside shredded cabbage, with a sweet and sticky tonkatsu sauce on the side. The cutlet itself is commonly pre-cut into five or six pieces by the chef, so diners can use chopsticks instead of a knife and fork to eat it and the pork can sit on a tray instead of a plate to keep the coating nice and crunchy.

Just reading about it is enough to make your mouth water, so what about when it comes to eating it? Well, before you pop that crunchy morsel into your gob you might want to stop and take a moment to consider a new way of eating it, which is currently blowing people’s minds in Japan.

This eating hack was introduced to the masses on Hikaru Ijuin’s radio programme, Shinya no Bakajikara, with the host saying he learned about it from the owner of a famous tonkatsu restaurant. According to his source, most diners place the tonkatsu slice in their mouth with the coating facing the tongue, but there’s a better way to do it, as the tonkatsu is said to be tastier when you place the cross section of the meat on the tongue instead.

▼ Hikaru Ijuin

This hack surprised so many listeners in Japan that it soon went viral on social media, with people keen to try this new way of eating tonkatsu. One of the people most eager to try it was our reporter Ahiruneko, who headed out to his favourite restaurant to test the claim.

Picking up a slice (as seen above), Ahiruneko realised that he did usually place the breaded side on his tongue, due to the way it was held with the chopsticks. To eat it with the cutlet in direct contact with the tongue, he’d have to either turn his chopsticks at a weird angle in his mouth or turn the slice on its side before picking it up, both of which don’t come naturally.

▼ The recommended way to eat tonkatsu.

As he rearranged his chopsticks to allow the meat to face his tongue, he remembered another tip he’d gleaned from the fifth volume of Shoku No Gunshi, a manga about the finer details of food and dining.

This volume sang the praises of starting your tonkatsu meal with the second smallest slice on the plate and sprinkling it with salt and nothing else, so that’s what Ahiruneko did, only this time, he was holding the slice meat-side down.

The moment the meat hit his tongue, he could sense a clear and profound difference in flavour. In all his 38 years of living, this was the first time he’d ever eaten tonkatsu with the cross section in direct contact with his taste buds, and it was a revelation.

The meat had a much greater presence in the flavour profile, making its juicy flavours come to the fore with the crunchy batter following afterwards. It was as if he was being reminded that tonkatsu is actually a meat dish before being a deep-fried dish.

With the next slice, he slathered tonkatsu sauce on the cross section before eating it meat-side down. He feared the sauce would make it hard to notice the meat, but yet again, the first thing his taste buds sensed was not the seasoning but the juices of the meat.

Immediately after that first bite, the flavour then blended with the batter and sauce and imparted a more familiar tonkatsu taste.

To compare, Ahiruneko tried eating one slice with the batter in direct contact with the tongue as he usually would, and he found that the batter tasted very strong when eaten this way. The main star was the batter, with the meat playing second fiddle.

Ahiruneko had no idea that turning the slice on its side would make such a difference to the taste, and now he’s been introduced to its wonders, he feels like his eyes have been opened to a whole new world of flavour.

However, as good as this technique is, he’s still open to eating it both ways, so he’s come up with his own recommended style of eating — Dual Wielding.

The first step to Dual Wielding is to start with the second smallest cutlet with a light sprinkling of salt on the cross section. Place it meat-side down on your tongue and enjoy the delicious flavour. From then on, he recommends eating the rest of the slices with the meat-side down, seasoning it with sauce to your liking, and leaving the end sections ’til last.

The small slices on either end of the cutlet contain a lot of batter and fat and not much meat, so it’s a good idea to add some sauce to the coating, and some Japanese mustard if you like, to make it even more decadent. Alternatively, you can cover the ends with sauce at the beginning and leave them to rest and marinate in the sweet and salty flavours until the end of your meal.

▼ Ahiruneko recommends eating the ends crumb-side down, as there’s no love lost due to the relatively small amount of meat.

If you use the above hybrid method, you can enjoy the best of both worlds, tasting the cutlet meat-side first and sauce-soaked batter-side first. Whether you choose to adopt Dual Wielding method or not is up to you, but Ahiruneko adamantly recommends trying it meat-side down at least once in your life as he reckons it’ll change the way you eat tonkatsu forever. Plus, it’ll make you look like a total connoisseur in front of other diners.

If you’re faced with the option of adding sesame seeds and other condiments to your tonkatsu, though, then this hack Mr Sato discovered will further up your game!

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]