Katsu Sando’s have been the rage for awhile now where Cindy’s from (California), but are just now making their way to us here in Denver. What exactly is a katsu sando?
Katsu is short for “katsuretsu,” which means “cutlet” in Japanese, but is not just any old cutlet, it’s a breaded and fried cutlet. Sando is the “kawaii” (cute) Japanese name for “sandwich”.
For our katsu sando sliders, based on a recipe from our nephew and sometimes photographer and test cook, Robbie (who sometimes goes by his middle name, Masato, which was Cindy’s grandfather’s name on her father’s side), we’re using tofu. Traditionally, this would be made with pork (and less traditionally, but just as deliciously, with chicken)—you can find that recipe here.
A katsu sando is simple: a fried cutlet on “shokupan” (Japanese milk bread) slathered with tonkatsu sauce with finely shredded cabbage. Japanese milk bread is not easily found, so we use King’s Hawaiian Rolls or challah rolls from Rosenberg’s in Denver, since both have a little sweetness to them like Japanese milk bread.
To take our katsu sando up a notch, we added a little of our Masi Masa Japanese Gold Curry to the flour. But if you don’t have any, don’t worry, salt and pepper is traditional and will taste more than fine!
1 lb firm tofu
Freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP Masi Masa Japanese Curry Spice Blend
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten or 1/4 C plant-based egg, aquafaba, or oat milk
3/4 C panko
Vegetable, peanut, or canola oil for pan frying
8 King’s Hawaiian rolls, shokupan, or challah rolls
1/4 head green cabbage, finely shredded
2 green onions, sliced on diagonal in 1/2" pieces (optional)
Cucumber tsukemono* to serve on the side (optional)
Kettle chips or french fried (optional)
*“Tsukemono” means “pickled things” in Japanese. You can sometimes find them at Whole Foods with the other fermented/pickled things. H Mart or your local Asian market may also have them. We get them in Denver at our local Japanese grocery, Pacific Mercantile. For this recipe, we used cucumber tsukemono, which is really easy to make. Here’s a quick recipe from All Recipes.
Remove water from tofu: wrap the block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels then put it on a large plate with a lip. Put something heavy such as a frying pan on top, weigh it down further with cans or jars, and leave for 30 mins.
Remove tofu from towel, cut in half lengthwise into two slabs, then cut each slab into quarters—resulting in 8 pieces of tofu.
Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Prepare dredging station—on three separate dinner-sized plates:
Plate 1: Stir together ¼ C flour on plate & 1 TBSP Masi Masa Japanese Gold Curry Spice Blend
Plate 2: Beat egg in a bowl and pour onto plate (or use egg substitute)
Plate 3: ½ C panko
Dredge tofu (using your hands is the easiest):
Coat a tofu slab on all sides with flour and spice blend mixture.
Dip slab into egg until completely coated, shaking off any excess.
Place the tofu in the panko and gently press down until all sides are well coated. Place on wire rack
Repeat with the second slab.
Add enough oil to a large skillet to rise ½ inch up the sides. Set over medium heat and heat to 350°F (if using a thermometer) or drop a small piece of panko into the oil — if it sizzles, it’s ready).
Carefully slide tofu slabs into the hot oil—the tofu should sizzle instantly. After 2 to 4 minutes, once the tofu is golden (use a pair of tongs to lift a corner to check the color), carefully flip and fry the other side. Note: If it's browning too quickly, you can lower the heat a little.
When both sides are golden, transfer the tofu katsu to a wire rack to drain to keep the katsu crispy.
Cut rolls in half lengthwise (like a hamburger bun)
Slather tonkatsu sauce on both pieces (like you would put mustard and mayo on a hamburger bun)
Place 1 tofu cutlet on top of bottom half
Top cutlet with some shredded cabbage, sliced green onions and cucumber tsukemono, top with top half, and repeat