And where to get some in Singapore 

Singapore’s love affair with Japanese food is hardly new, and neither is our insatiable appetite for tonkatsu—what’s not to love about panko-battered, deep-fried pork cutlets? What’s hot these, however, is the trend of high-end tonkatsu, not the cheap stuff, but premium meats prepared with precision and a focus on good ingredients. With the arrival of Japan Town and other Japanese food enclaves, we’re seeing more and more tonkatsu specialists. 

So what’s so great about what they do? Well, in simple terms, tonkatsu—which incidentally was invented in the last 1800s, when many Westerners were coming to Japan under the Meiji era—is a pork cutlet deep fried in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbsIt comes with a Worchestershire-like tonkatsu sauce and a dollop of Japanese mustard (karashi). Most are either hire-kastu, made from fatty pork loin, and rosu-katsu, a leaner fillet. You can have it on its own with miso and cabbage, with Japanese curry and rice (katsu curry), katsudon (served with egg over a bowl of rice)with cheese and even in a sandwich.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The excellence lies in the details. Most places will opt for regular panko in flour form due to its long shelf life. Nama, or fresh, panko is much more difficult to prepare and has to be used that same day but it does give tonkatsu a softer yet crispier texture. Tonkatsu using nama panko remains crisp and airy for up to 15 minutes after it is cooked. Nama panko uses real bread instead of flour and as a result preparation is a long process of steaming then crumbling the bread, before it is dried and cooled. With fresh panko, the bread doesn’t absorb the oilGood tonkatsu must not be oily and has to remain crispy for quite some time after it is cooked. The texture must not be too crispy and the panko should be airy enough for the sauce to be fully absorbed.

Think you know great tonkatsu now? Try out your palate at some of these contenders. 

Tonkatsu Ma Maison

Our round-up of the top spots for some battered pork

Ginza Anzu 
#04-48 Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Rd.,  6262-3408. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm

Japan Food Town is home to the Singapore outpost of this famous Ginza stalwart, and has the same wood-paneled walls and excellent, premium meat cutlets. 

Hajime Tonkatsu 
#02-07/8/9 myVillage @ Serangoon Garden, 1 Maju Ave. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm, 6-10pm; Sat-Sun 11:30am-3pm, 5-10pm
Friendly community mall in the north, myVillage recently got a tonkatsu specialist, chef Tan-San, who has been making the dish since 1993.  

#01-17 The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green, 6694-6148. Open daily 11:30am-3pm, 5:30-10:30pm

First launched in Roppongi, Japan, where it has a Michelin Bib Gourmand, this katsu specialist at Star Vista uses only Kagoshima pork.

#03-10 Itadakimasu by Pacro, 100AM, 110 Tras St. Open daily 11am-10pm

This tonkatsu chain’s latest outlet is at the brand new Japanese food enclave, Itadakimasu by Parco, at 100AM on Tanjong Pagar. Also check them out at 313@somerset and Millenia Walk. 

#07-06 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Rd.6238-7976. Open daily 11am-3pm, 6-11pm

Enjoy affordable tonkatsu in the heart of Orchard at this Pokka chain. Get the Kurobuta option, where you can choose either the shoulder cut or the fillet. 

Tonkatsu Ma Maison
#02-35/36 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Rd., 6733-4541, . Open Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 5-10pm; Sat-Sun 11am-10pm 

Easily one of the higher end tonkatsu specialists in town, the cutlets here are as good as you might expect. For a hearty meal, opt for the balanced and delicious katsu curry.