'Katsudon', i.e. 'The Best Japanese Food'

by phillipsauve on April 7, 2010

katsudon

A delicious bowl of katsudon

What is this ‘katsudon‘ thing that I speak of?  For those of you unfamiliar, katsudon is a fried pork cutlet, covered with egg and put on top of a bowl of rice.  It’s hot, crisp, and juicy- what else could you want?  It is by far one of the best (and lesser known) foods you could eat in Japan (assuming you are of the carnivore variety).  The following is a brief tale of my path in discovering this unique delight.

I must say, the first time I had katsudon I was rather unimpressed.  It was after I first arrived in Japan in August of 2007, in a bento (Japanese lunchbox) purchased from the local grocery store.  It had been made for the lunch crowd as something to pick up on the go.  That was about eight hours before I bought it and reheated it in the microwave.  I wouldn’t say that it was bad, but it wasn’t something that I was trying to buy again tomorrow either.  Needless to say, given the circumstances in which I first had it (cooked almost half a day earlier, sitting out all day, reheated), it left the katsudon without much of a fighting chance to impress anyone’s tastebuds.  Not many foods would under those conditions.

A few weeks later, I had the ‘real’ katsudon- the one which made me love this food.  It was after the local junior high’s Friday night basketball practice.  I had only been in Motoyoshi for a few months and had been helping out with the basketball team every week.  When the coach was in a good mood he would take everyone out for katsudon at Endou, a local restaurant just a two minutes drive down the hill from the school, after practice was over.  I happened to be there on one of those lucky Friday nights in the fall of 2007.  Since then, I have fallen in love with katsudon.

This katsudon was amazing.  It was nothing like the one I had before.  It was hot, the katsu (fried pork cutlet) was crispy on the outside but not overly oily like a lot of fried food ends up being.  The inside was succulent and juicy.  The egg surrounding it was well mixed and perfectly cooked, neither overdone nor undercooked and watery either.  It was garnished with sauteed onions and layed on top of fresh steamed white rice.  I could hardly believe that this and the other katsudon were considered the same thing.

Food is an integral part of all cultures, perhaps no more so than here in Japan.  As a foreigner in Japan you will inevitably be asked what is your favorite Japanese food.  Perhaps the frequency of this questions is due to cultural reasons, but it is also simply an easy way to start a conversation because eating is something we all must do.  The first time I was asked this- having never really thought about it since I enjoyed most of the food here- I just responded with the first food that popped in my head: sushi.  My answer remained that way for awhile.  Until, that is, I had that ‘real’ katsudon.  Since then I’m unwavering in my support for katsudon.  I couldn’t keep this information to myself though, so I spread the good word.

I recommended that restaurant’s katsudon to the staff room at Koizumi Junior High School, a small school of about 60 students where I work.  We went to Endou for the next staff enkai (Japanese drinking party) and everyone tried the katsudon. They weren’t disappointed.  At Tsuya Junior High, my main school, when the chance arises to order out for lunch, staff members now regularly order this katsudon.  Furthermore, one of the vice-principals that I worked with, an urbanite who is from Sendai and has spent a good amount of time in Tokyo, was blown away.  He proclaims that if this katsudon was in Tokyo you could charge 2000 yen (about $20 US) for it.  It currently costs 800 yen.  The part about this which really makes me smile: this katsudon comes from a sushi restaurant.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patty April 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Hey, way to go Phil. When are we going to meet the “special someone” you were relaxing on the beach with?

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phillipsauve April 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

In due time Aunt Patty, in due time…

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