Two cultures take the notion of a simple fried pork cutlet to a new level. Thanks to these wise countries, I hereby declare my total renouncement of the breaded fried chicken breast, and urge those who are still ordering or making any incarnation of it well into adulthood, to reconsider. You can still have your lunch breaded and fried. But for flavor’s sake, make it pork.
The first version of this dish that blows chicken out of the coop comes from Austria. Schnitzel, more specifically schnitzel wiener art, is a large, thinly pounded portion of boneless pork fried to a golden crisp and served very simply with a lemon wedge and potato salad. (Wiener schnitzel, on the other hand, must by law be made with veal.) A longstanding theory of mine regarding Southern-style country fried steak: where there are Austrian/German immigrants and an abundance of cattle…
In the Midwest, especially Indiana, you’ll get a massive portion of schnitzel made from loin meat only, almost comically sandwiched in a hamburger bun. The aptly named pork tenderloin sandwich, or simply “breaded tenderloin” is so ingrained in their food culture that it was the subject of a documentary film. I’d like to see someone do that with chicken tikka masala and see how far they get.
Japanese tonkatsu is the other example of pork breading and frying gone very, very right. It’s served differently than schnitzel in that it’s coated in crunchy, light panko crumbs, sliced before serving and isn’t nearly as large. Tonkatsu seems happiest atop ramen or nestled comfortably in a bento box, but it’s also found in white bread sandwiches that are very much unlike breaded tenderloin in a hamburger bun. Diversity makes the world go round.
Isn’t Japanese food usually healthier than a big ol’ slab of deep-fried meat? Fish and tofu and buckwheat noodles? You would be correct, tonkatsu came into existence as a play on European food in the last hundred or so years. Schnitzel, on the other hand, has been around since the Dark Ages. And if that’s the case, it’ll probably be around til the next Dark Ages, where I sincerely hope they have deep-fryers.
More pork for lunch on Food Republic: