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Tokyo – Harajuku: Maisen Okita Kurobuta Tonkatsu
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Maisen (まい泉), at 4-8-5 Jinguame, has been serving authentic tonkatsu in a former pre-World War II two-story public bathhouse since 1965. Its main dining hall was once the changing room and it sports a high ceiling and original architectural details.
Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ, or トンカツ), invented in the late 19th century, consists of panko breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. It is generally served with either shredded cabbage or grated daikon, and either tonkatsu sōsu (トンカツソース), or tonkatsu sauce, a thick Japanese Worcestershire sauce made from pureed apples, or ponzu (ポン酢), a citrus based sauce. Early katsuretsu, or cutlets, were usually beef, with the first pork version served in 1890 in a Western-style restaurant in Ginza. The term "tonkatsu", or "pork katsu" was coined in the 1930’s.
Maisen is especially known for its Kurobuta (かごしま黒豚), or black pig, a rare breed of Berkshire pig bred in the Kagoshima Prefecture. Originating from England, by way of New Zealand, the black pigs were brought to Japan by diplomats as a gift in the 19th century. Kurobuta is distinguished from most commercial pork by its sweetness and rich flavor, which comes from the high levels of intramuscular marbled fat. Maisen’s most prized is the Okita Kurobuta Farm’s "Satsuma Roppaku Kurobuta." Satsuma is a district in Kagoshima, and "Roppaku Kurobuta" are six-spotted black pigs. Hayao Okita raises his Kurobuta, using a proprietary feedstuff blend, at a large farm in the mountain region’s Ookuchi city.
Maisen pork is tenderized through careful cutting and pounding producing a cutlet so tender it can be cut with chopsticks. It uses exclusively original raw breadcrumbs meeting unique specifications for size, shape and water-content and slow fries in high oleic 100% sunflower oil rich in vitamin E with a characteristic dry texture. Their homemade sauce once made by hand in a saucepan is now stewed in a large tank and matured with only fresh vegetables and fruit resulting in subtly changing flavors with the seasons.
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