Ironically, some of our most frustrating dining out experiences inspire us to create great meals at home. That was how Alex’s katsudon came to be. Frustrated with the paper-thin pork cutlet in the katsudon at Yasuo (at Kayle 1 Abad Santos Food Park), she cooked a tastier and meatier home version.
A couple of weeks ago, Speedy and I picked up Alex from her culinary class. There were a few hours to kill before a doctor’s appointment and since Alex was starving, at her request, we went to nearby Kayle 1 Abad Santos Food Park in San Juan. The only establishment we have tried there was Rafik Shawarma (we’re happy customers) and we wanted to try the others. Mala Tang Restaurant (roast duck!) had opened a stall there and we were excited.
Unfortunately, because we got there just as the food park was opening for the day, most of the stalls were not yet ready for business. In the end, Alex chose katsudon from Yasuo. When her rice bowl was served, she dug in and was immediately disappointed.
Who wouldn’t be?
Look at how thin the pork cutlet is in relation to the thickness of the breading. Photo not illustrative enough? Try this.
Nothing can be more illustrative than that.
I understand that food park habitués are not big spenders and the sellers want to keep prices low to attract more people. But if Yasuo has to keep the pork cutlet that thin to keep prices down, then the thickness of the breading should be commensurate with the size of the pork. But when the breading is four times thicker than the pork, that’s cheating.
To make matters even worse, Yasuo’s katsudon did not taste like it was seasoned with traditional katsudon seasonings like dashi, sake and mirin. The saltiness was sufficient, yes, but the depth of flavor that dashi and rice wine impart is simply not there.
As though things weren’t bad enough, while Alex was eating her sad-looking katsudon, the Mala Tang people started to arrive with whole roast ducks. Alex could only look and make a sound like a wounded animal. Regret. If only she had waited for ten minutes before ordering, she might have been eating roast duck instead of the worst katsudon ever cooked. Never mind, I told her, after the visit with the doctor, we’d have a nice dinner.
So, if you find yourself at Kayle 1 Abad Santos Food Park, you’ve been warned. Try Yasuo if you’re truly hellbent on wasting your money.
A few days after that terrible meal, Alex cooked katsudon at home.
Of course, the pork cutlet was breaded. But the breading was much thinner than the meat. As it should be.
Here’s a closer look.
And from another angle.
Alex used all the correct seasonings too—soy sauce, dashi, mirin, sake… And that ended her frustration. The bonus? Speedy and I got to eat delicious katsudon at home too.
- In a wide shallow pan, boil the mirin, sake, soy sauce, sugar, dashi and sliced onion over medium heat. Cook until the onion slices are softened, about three minutes.
- Lay the tonkatsu in a single layer in the boiling liquid, making sure that they are at least two inches apart.
- Pour the beaten eggs around and between the tonkatsu. Sprinkle in the scallions. Cook just until the eggs are set, about one minute.
- Scoop out one piece of pork and the egg around it for each cup of rice. Sprinkle with more scallions.
- Serve the katsudon immediately.
What goes well with katsudon? Bowls of hot miso soup.
I’d say “itadakimass” to wish you a happy meal but I understand that the expression is not the same as saying “bon apétit.” So, I’ll just say, “Have a great meal and enjoy your weekend.”