Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner goes back to Japan!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Well gang…. last year’s Japanese Sunday Family Dinner was so oishii – we had to go back again.

This time, per our brother-in-law’s request since we were also celebrating his birthday!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As always, we had to start with a few cocktails. I kept it pretty simple (but refreshingly delish) by infusing sake with fresh fruit. I filled a few mason jars with sweet canteloupe and pineapples, topped them off with sake, and them let them hang out in the fridge for a week.

When it was time to get the party started, I threw the contents of each jar in the blender, pureed it and then strained the liquids. It was fabulous!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As for the food, we had to do a little different spin on last year’s dinner. In honor of the robatayaki-yakiniku Japanese grilling style, we snagged a few of my cousin’s grills (that our uncle finagled) and got down to business!

We grilled fresh oysters, clams, prawns, calamari, trumpet mushrooms and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). The seafood were either dipped in a chili ponzu sauce or a ginger-fish sauce that the B.I.L. (bro-in-law) is a whiz at making.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And of course we had to have some beautiful, fresh sashimi.

Tuna, salmon, hamachi and …………..GEODUCK!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Have you ever seen fresh geoduck? CRAZY!!! They’re a gi-normous shellfish with a trunk-like thing sticking out of it.

We made big sis take care of the prep work for it…. obligatory big sister duties, of course. 🙂

It’s best to first blanch the geoduck for a minute to help skin it – a tip learned by a random stranger when we were buying the geoduck at the market. After a quick clean, she sliced it really thin and we inhaled it with soy and wasabi.

Verdict? Awesome. I liken the flavor and texture to escargot –but not as chewy.

Definitely a Foodventure.

April 2014 Family Dinner

To brush over the yakitori and mushrooms, I made a quick teriyaki sauce. Easy-peasy!

My other seester also made Japanese Hamburger Steak served over rice. Totally comforting and hearty.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And there’s always room for dessert in my family!

This time around, our big sis outdid herself with this layered Matcha Green Tea Cake filled with Green Tea Mousse and smothered with a rich ganache.

It was AH-MAY-ZING! Super-duper Green Tea Flavor!

April 2014 Family Dinner

She did a mash-up of a few different recipes. The cake comes from here and the green tea mousse is from here. As for the ganache, it was a quick version I made with heavy cream and dark chocolate. Can’t get any easier than that! But one piece of advice, double the amounts of matcha powder or else you won’t get that full flavor.

April 2014 Family Dinner

Pre-historic looking mollusks, outdoor grilling (including us accidentally melting the plastic table –eek!) and sparklers for the munchkins.

Needless to say it was a tummy-pleasing and FUN Sunday Family Dinner!

April 2014 Family Dinner

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pineapple and Cantaloupe infused Sake
Appetizers: Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi and Geoduck Sashimis
Entrees: Hibachi Grilled Seafood & Vegetables, Demi-Glace Japanese Hamburger with Rice
Dessert: Matcha Green Tea Cake with Green Tea Mousse and Chocolate Ganache

Appetizers/Small Plates · Pork · Seafood · Sunday Family Dinner

Pork & Shrimp Gyoza and Our Kid Chefs

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

One of the neatest things about our family dinners is seeing how accomplished my neices have become in the kitchen. We got them involved quite young with baking, creating their own pizzas, and so forth—and I think that it’s really helped them become more at ease with cooking.

Fast forward to today where Nina (14 years old) and Nini (13 years old) have developed their own specialities in the kitchen. Nina can whip up a wonderful dressing and a to die for chocolate cake. Nini is a whiz at shucking oysters, cupcake decorating, and quite recently has become a dumpling-making pro.

Nini and Nina

With the endless things that had to be done at our last family dinner, I needed some help finishing the Gyozas. I showed Nini only once how to fold a Gyoza and the next thing I knew it, she had completed an entire tray of dumplings for me–and they were perfect!

Gyozas are the Japanese version of delish panfried dumplings. They can be filled with a variety of proteins and are wrapped with thin dumpling skins made from flour, salt, and boiling water. Here’s how I make them:

Start off by creating the filling. I like to do a Vietnamese-Japanese fusion and mix ground pork, roughly chopped shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, fish sauce, soy and a variety of other aromatics and spices. The shrimp adds a slight sweetness and great texture. Once the filling has been thoroughly mixed, it’s time to assemble the gyozas.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Place one gyoza wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Be careful to not over stuff your dumplings or else the filling will burst from the seams.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Pick up the gyoza and fold it in half.

Um…I really should have gotten a manicure before I took these pics.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Start pleating the top layer of the gyoza wrapper. After each pleat, fold, and firmly press the edges together, ensuring that that the gyoza is well sealed.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Place the gyoza on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with either flour or cornstarch to prevent them from sticking. Cover the sheet with a dish towel while you finish making the rest of the gyozas.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

After the gyozas have been pan fried, serve them up with a soy-vinegar sauce or my preferred sauce– ponzu.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

These gyozas have a wonderful flavor and all of your loved ones will gobble them up. And if given the chance, get the kids involved and exposed to the cooking process. They’ll have a lot of fun and take pride that they are eating what they helped to make.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, like our aunties, we can retire from cooking duty soon so that the kiddos can take over. Now if we could only get them as excited to do the dishes.

One step at a time. 🙂

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Pork and Shrimp Gyozas
Makes approximately 40 dumplings

Ingredients:

¼ pound shrimp, shelled and devined
½ pound ground pork
1 heaping cup finely chopped cabbage
1 heaping cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
½ cup finely diced scallions
¼ cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1½ tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, additional (for frying)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package gyoza wrappers (50 count)
vegetable oil (for frying)
water (for frying)
ponzu sauce, or your choice of dipping sauces
chives

Chop the shrimp into small pieces and add them to a large bowl. Add in the pork, cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, shallots, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, sake, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Using your cleans hands, mix the filling until thoroughly combined.

To make the gyozas, lay one gyoza wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Pick up the gyoza and fold it in half. Pleat – fold – and press the edges together, ensuring that you seal the gyoza tightly. Place the gyoza on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch or lined with parchment paper to avoid them sticking to the pan. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat with vegetable oil. Place a layer of the gyozas in the pan. Fry the gyozas for 1-2 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of water and immediately place the lid on the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the gyozas to steam until almost all of the water has evaporated.

Remove the lid, turn the heat back up to medium and lightly drizzle sesame oil around the inner edge of the pan. Continue cooking until remaining water has evaporated. Plate and garnish with chives or scallions. Serve immediately with ponzu sauce.

Desserts/Pastries · Sunday Family Dinner

Matcha (Green Tea) Icebox Cheesecake

Green Tea "Icebox" Cheesecake

Have you ever made an icebox cheesecake? They’re actually quite easy and don’t require a finicky water bath. In lieu of eggs, the filling utilizes gelatin to help it set. The end results? Something quite light and fluffy that won’t leave you feeling too heavy at the end of the meal.

Green Tea "Icebox" Cheesecake

This particular icebox cheesecake is flavored with matcha– a finely ground green tea powder. It’s quite floral and has a slightly bitter taste which is why it pairs so well with the chocolate crust. Depending on the quality of the matcha that you use, you may want to add more than the recipe lists to oompf up the flavor.

My fam-bam are fans of green tea so we served big slices of this cheesecake with heaping scoops of green tea ice cream at our last Family Dinner. But if you prefer, you can serve it with dollops of fresh whipped cream or by itself.

Totally Oishii.

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Matcha (Green Tea) Icebox Cheesecake
Serve 8-10

Ingredients:

2½ cups chocolate cookie/wafer crumbs (I used Oreos)
1 cup + 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, divided
4 tablespoons melted butter
1¼ cups chilled heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon matcha (green tea) powder, more for dusting
2¼ teaspoons gelatin powder
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover a 10-inch springform pan with a light layer of cooking spray. Combine the cookie/wafer crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Press crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Set the whipped cream aside.

Using a clean bowl, whip the cream cheese using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the remaining sugar, stopping every so now and then to scrape down the sides.

Heat the milk until it is hot but not boiling. Whisk in the matcha until full incorporated. Turn the mixer with the cream cheese on low and slowly stream in the cooled milk mixture. Mix until just combined.

In a small bowl, bloom the gelatin in the water.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Fold until just combined. Add the gelatin and gently fold in. *If the gelatin has hardened, microwave for 10 seconds until it becomes liquid again before adding into the cheesecake mixture.

Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.

Before serving, gently release the springform pan ring. Dust the top with additional matcha powder and serve.

Adapted from Dessert First

Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

Japanese themed Family Dinner and Lychee Saketinis! Kampai!

April 2013 Family Dinner

I know I should be more humble about this but we really knocked it out of the park for this month’s Family Dinner where we took a gastronomic trip to Japan.

Dinner  was at eldest seester’s house and we literally cooked and ate for 3+ hours straight! Right when we finished one dish, we would only take intermittent pauses to nosh while we worked on the next dish. Quite fun, actually!

My seester has been talking about a fishmonger near her house for ages but we’ve never had a chance to give it try. So with a Japanese themed menu, what better opportunity? We were able to snag a bunch of beautiful product from Dry Dock Fish Co. and lemme tell you—totally rad.

So instead of just describing our menu, how about I show you what we inhaled.

April 2013 Family Dinner

Using the oysters we got from Dry Dock Fish Co., I put together these indulgent beauties. I drizzled each oyster with an Asian inspired mignonette, topped some with uni and tobiko, and fresh chives.

Swoon…..

April 2013 Family Dinner

This gorgeous sashimi platter consists of salmon, hamachi, ahi and ahi poke. We picked up the ahi poke pre-made from Dry Dock Fish Co. but added additional scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil for a bit more depth. And of course, we had some beautiful spot prawns.

Drools….

April 2013 Family Dinner

The spot prawns were so incredibly fresh. How fresh? So fresh that they were still swimming when we brought them home. And for those a bit wary of eating prawns sashimi style–don’t be! These spot prawns were incredibly sweet and had a wonderful crunch to them.

Sorry, I just had to stop myself from licking the screen.

April 2013 Family Dinner

As for the heads—waste not, want not! My sis quickly flashed fried and then lightly salted them.

Crunchy and filled with unctuous goodness…….

April 2013 Family Dinner

There were also pork and shrimp filled gyozas (that I commissioned my niece, Nini to fold) and of course, some yummy maki rolls. The rolls above were my seester’s brainchild–filled with lump crab and avocado, then topped with seared steak, black sesame seeds, and chives (that she commissioned our niece, Nina to roll).

Yea, we put the kids to work that night….

April 2013 Family Dinner

And it would be hard for me to have a Japanese meal without some satisfying spicy tuna rolls.

Nina rolled these for me too 🙂

April 2013 Family Dinner

We also wolfed down these Honey Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps adapted from a recipe from the rad Nami of Just One Cookbook. Sis par cooked the pork on the stove and then finished them off in the oven which gave them a crunchy texture that was lip-smackingly awesome from the glaze.

April 2013 Family Dinner

And the salmon collar–which we nearly forgot about! Luckily Big Sis remembered them half way through dinner and crisped them under the broiler. Crispy goodness though it stayed quite moist. Not the greatest photo but it was darn oishii!

 

April 2013 Family Dinner

Finally, we finished the savory portion of our meal with my Uni Pasta —because apparently, we didn’t have enough to eat.

At this point, we were feeling a little guilty (okay, just a tad) and rallied for a walk before dessert. Well, the gals + Lucasaurus went for a walk while the big boys opted out—the guys had gone for a mountain bike ride pre-dinner so we gave them a pass.

April 2013 Family Dinner

Dessert was an Icebox Green Tea Cheesecake I made with a chocolate crust. Since it was considered a “no bake” cheesecake, it was actually quite light and fluffy and was the perfect dessert to end our meal. The matcha added a slight bitterness to the filling but not at all overpowering.

Divine!

Lychee Saketinis

Of course it wouldn’t be a Family Dinner if we didn’t mix up a few thirst quenching cocktails. To go with our theme, I shook up these delish Lychee Saketinis that were aromatic and floral. And although they went down smooth, don’t let these little buggahs fool ya. They pack a punch!

Lychee Saketinis

I’ll be sharing several of the recipes we enjoyed in the next few posts but for now, I’ll let you in on how to make these wonderful Lychee Saketinis.

Until next time, Friends — Kampai!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Lychee Saketinis
Appetizers: Sashimis (Ahi, Salmon, Hamachi, Spot Prawn), Poke, Oysters topped with Uni & Tobiko, Spicy Tuna Rolls, Pork & Shrimp Gyoza, Crispy Ebi Head, Beef-Crab-Avocado Roll
Entrees: Grilled Salmon Collar, Uni Pasta, Honey Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps, Rice
Dessert: Icebox Green Tea Cheesecake

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Lychee Saketinis
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 20-ounce can of lychee (in light syrup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
ice
juice of ½ lime
1½ ounces vodka
5 ounces sake

Pour the can of lychee and its syrup into a blender. Add the ginger and puree until smooth. Strain the lychee puree through a fine sieve, using a rubber spatula to push down on the pulp to release the liquid. Discard the pulp and set the lychee liquid aside.

Fill a large shaker with ice. Add the lime juice, vodka, sake and 5 ounces of the lychee liquid. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds and strain the contents between 2 glasses. Garnish with additional lychees and lime wedges. Cheers!

Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

 

 

Okay….my first confession with this is that I had no intention of writing a post about this.  These Korokke were a result of me rummaging around the fridge one day, extremely hungry and wanting to find something quick to make. And then I stumbled upon a tupperware of leftover mashed potatoes—-something I RARELY have leftovers of. I am, after all, a Potato Monster .

I quickly decided upon fixing up some Korokke to eat along side some eggs……a Japanese “hashbrown” if you will. Super quick to make (especially if using mashed potatoes) and delish when lightly flavored with some curry powder. I often order it as a side dish when I’m having ramen for that added bit of texture and crunch.

Then I thought…..there must be tons of potato monsters out there, right? It was decided—I HAD to share my Korokke with you.

 

 

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

My second confession is that I got a little OCD when forming the potato patties. Usually I just free form them in my hands but I suddenly got it into my head that I was going to use my cookie cutters to get more uniformed shapes. Yeah…I have issues.

If you’re a normal person—just go with forming oval patties out of the potato mixture. But if you’re a crazy food blogger like me, gently press the mixture into an even layer on a lightly floured surface.  Then, use a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to make your shapes.  Trust me….either way results in a crispy and delish potato croquette. 🙂

Potato Monster signing off!

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Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)
Makes approximately 4 croquettes

Ingredients:

2 Cups Mashed Potatoes (or boil and mash 2 large potatoes)
1/2 Teaspoon Curry Powder
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
Salt and Pepper
Oil for frying

Heat oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly combine the potatoes and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper. Plate the beaten egg, flour, and panko in 3 separate, shallow dishes.

Using the potato mixture, form patties. This can be done by free forming them in your hands or by the cookie cutter method described above. Carefully coat each patty in the flour and gently shake off excess. Dip patty into the egg and then cover in the panko bread crumbs. Use the tips of your fingers to gently press the crumbs into the patty.

When the oil reaches temperature, fry the patties on each side until golden brown—about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with tonkatsu sauce or sauce of your choice.

Pastas/Noodles

Zaru Soba and Memories of Japan

Zaru Soba

In 2006, I spent a whirlwind 5 days experiencing Japan.

Not knowing when the next opportunity would arise for me to visit the country, I was determined to see, feel, experience, and of course EAT as much as I could.

Over the course of 5 days, I visited the cities of Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Kishigawa. That’s  over 1,200+ miles back and forth—-thanks to my Japan Rail Pass.

I attended a major league baseball game, walked around the Hiroshima Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, traversed the busy subways & shops of Tokyo, prayed in shrines, sang at a karaoke bar, stayed at a hostel/ryokan, got lost—A LOT, biked around the streets of Kyoto, attended a Donjiri Festival, meandered around the different hamlets, and above all –engaged with the people of Japan. Needless to say, I barely nicked the surface.

Zaru Soba

But by far, my most precious memory of Japan was when I met Yushiko in Kyoto. That day, my friend Kate and I rented rickety old bikes to explore the old imperial city. As we were wandered around a part of the city infamous for old temples, we spotted a tiny, older woman sweeping the steps of a temple. She looked up as we went by and smiled. After exchanging a few greetings, she stopped and pointed to me and said “Japanese?” I said no, and responded “Vietnamese”. She laughed and began trying a few words in English. It turned out that the “temple” was not a temple at all but was her home. We later discovered that Yushiko was 94 years old (though she looked at least 15 years younger than that!) and that the home belonged to her late husband’s family line.

Yushiko invited us to come in and to view her garden. I was floored and so excited by her generosity. At one point, she motioned us to go through this old wooden door through a stone wall. We didn’t know what to expect but as I pushed the door which looked like it hadn’t been used in years, tears swelled up in my eyes. It was amazing– just as how I would have imagined the “Secret Garden” would look like. It was so peaceful and serene. Kate and I stayed in there for a few minutes just marveling at the beauty around us and feeling so lucky that this kind soul had invited us into her home.  We stayed and chatted with Yushiko for nearly 30 minutes and although she said she was “too old” for us to take photos with her– I just know that I will never forget her face and the precious time we spent with her.

 

 

A quick snapshot of Yushiko’s garden and home. Trust me, the photo does not do justice at all.

Of course it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention any of the food we encountered during my time in Japan. And OH…THE…FOOD.

 

 

Japan 2006 Collage

Noodles, Sashimis, Bento Boxes, Donburis, Sweets, Sakes, and snacks of all kinds. Oh man….my mouth is watering just thinking about it all.

Soba Noodles

 

 

Since we’ve been having such warm weather lately and because my travel bug has been itching like crazy, I decided to make one of the dishes I ate a ton of when I was in Japan–SobaSoba are noodles made of buckwheat flour and can be served either hot or chilled–-Zora Soba is my personal preference.

 

 

Dashi

At the heart of Zaru Soba is the tsuyu–or dipping sauce. The tsuyu is a pungent mixture of dashi, shoyu, and mirin but its strong flavors matches so well with the mild soba noodles. You can definitely make your own dashi broth but I kind of “cheat” and use instant packets. Go ahead…judge me all you like 🙂

Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba is typically served with tons of nori, scallions, and wasabi. I also like to have a side of tempura with it for a offset of temperature and crunch. Oishii!!!

But one thing is for certain….Whether hot or chilled, loud slurping while eating your Soba is mandatory. True Story.

<Sigh>….I miss Japan. And until I can find my way back to the beautiful country, I will have to console myself with Nihon goodies such as ramen and this soba.

And for the immense generosity and experiences I had in Japan–-Arigatou gozaimasu!

Kyoto: 2006Snapshot of me on a bridge in Kyoto after a full day of biking around the town.

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Zaru Soba
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 Package Dried Soba Noodles (approximately 9 ounces)

Tsuyu (Dipping Sauce):
1 Tablespoon Dried Dashi Soup Stock (or Dashi packets)
¼ Cup Low Sodium Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
¼ Cup Mirin
2 Cups Water

Accoutrements:
½ Cup Scallions, chopped
Seasoned Nori, sliced
Wasabi
Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables (optional)

Prepare the tsuyu. In a small saucepan bring the water to a slow boil. Add dashi soup stock and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add shoyu and mirin and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook soba noodles for 3-4 minutes or accordingly to package instructions. Drain the soba and rinse well with cool water. Shake of the excess water and plate the noodles. Top with nori and serve with scallions, wasabi, and tsuyu.

Pork

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is such a delicious meal to pull together when I need a quick Japanese fix.

Since the pork used is so thin, it fries up in a flash! Even if you need to make your own sauce, you can have the whole dish done in 20 minutes. Which, let’s be honest, is “Buddha-sent” for weeknight meals.

A lot of Japanese markets carry a perfectly yummy bottled Tonkatsu sauce. But if you don’t have some on hand, it’s just as easy and delish to make. Though, I have been just as happy to dip the crispy cutlets into BBQ sauce.

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Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Tonkatsu:
4 Pieces Pork Loin, ½ inch thin
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
½ Cup Flour
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Milk
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper

Tonkatsu Sauce:
2 Tablespoons Barbecue Sauce
2 Tablespoons Ketchup
½ Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
½ Tablespoon Sugar
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Prepare the sauce by mixing whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside while preparing the pork.

Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and place the flour in another. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the pork in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step.  Repeat with the remaining pork.

In a large skillet, heat the oil to medium high heat.  Slide in 2 pieces of pork and fry until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and drain the cutlets on paper towels. Repeat with remaining pork.

Serve Tonkatsu with rice, sauce, and a squeeze of lemon.