Tonkatsu by Elizabeth Andoh

Steve here: I have invited my friend, columnist, author and educator,  Elizabeth Andoh, to share with us a little about the history of  Tonkatsu in Japan.

Elizabeth Andoh: Chef Motojiro Kida of Rengatei, the first yoshoku-ya (western-style restaurant) to open to the public in the Ginza, is credited with first serving pork cutlets to a curious but appreciative clientele. At the time (1895, the 28th year of the Meiji Era), he called them poku katsuretsu. The current name tonkatsu  (the “ton” is an alternate reading of the calligraphy “buta” meaning “pig”) was coined later, at the beginning of the Showa era by another owner-chef, Shinjiro Shimada, of Ponta near Ueno. Interestingly — and rather telling of the rapid rise to popularity and continued devotion to this dish — both of these family-own-and-run restaurants are still in business today!

Rengatei (the name means “brick abode”) has several branches, all carefully preserving the legacy of founder, Motojiro. The third generation Akitoshi (76 years old) and his son, Koichiro are at the helm of the Ginza establishment (3-5-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. Phone: 03-3561-3882). Established in Meiji 38 (1905) by Chef Shinjiro Shimada, Ponta’s current chef is 4th generation Yoshihiko. Located near Okachimachi station (3-23-3 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Phone: 03-3831-2351). If you are in Tokyo wanting to sample classic tonkatsu at either of these venerable establishments, be forewarned that neither takes reservations.

For those of you without access to Tokyo, or preferring to try your own hand at making tonkatsu, download the recipes below. ENJOY

Classic Tonkatsu



Elizabeth Andoh bio here.  Link to A taste of culture homepage.


Born, raised and educated in America, Elizabeth Andoh has made Japan her home for more than four decades. A graduate of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Andoh’s formal culinary training was taken at the Yanagihara School of Classical Japanese Cuisine (Tokyo).

Andoh is the author of six books on Japanese cooking, including two IACP award-winners, An Ocean of Flavor (Morrow, 1988) and Washoku (Ten Speed, 2005). She was Gourmet's Japan correspondent for more than three decades and was a regular contributor to the New York Times travel section for many years. Andoh lectures internationally on Japanese food and culture and directs A Taste of Culture, a culinary program based in Tokyo, Japan.

Elizabeth Andoh’s website,

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