▲ The welcoming glow of good food as twilight descends Photo courtesy Justin Ferrell
There are few things in this world as satiating as a fresh cut of meat covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried - and at Tonkatsu 서황, I found one of Jeju’s finest restaurants for this divine fare.
There are dozens of national variations on the basic breaded cutlet.
Korea’s “donkasu” (돈까스) is a homologue of “tonkatsu”, the Japanese version, itself an interpretation of European cuisine. Many credit schnitzel in Austria as the origin of this dish.
Katsu is short for “katsuretsu” which in Japanese means “cutlet” and early examples of this dish were made principally with beef. Tonkatsu today uses either pork loin or tenderloin (also known as fillet).
Both are lean cuts from along the back of the pig. Rosu-katsu uses the loin, which is usually pounded flat. It has a fuller flavor than hire-katsu, which is the thicker fillet. The fillet is second to none in terms of tenderness.
▲ These pigs and fish died and went to a deep fat fried heaven Photo courtesy Justin Ferrell
One thing that differentiates tonkatsu from other schnitzels is the panko breadcrumbs on the outside. Panko is made by literally electrocuting bread dough.
According to Upper Crust Enterprises Inc. this unusual style of cooking was invented by soldiers during World War II who used their tank’s batteries to make bread.
When it’s done well the breaded exterior is crunchy without being oily, which tends to be a major issue with many other versions.
In the right hands, Tonkatsu is a thing of glory, and at Tonkatsu 서황 you will find nothing but the best.
Suh-Hwang (서~황) is a portmanteau of the family names of the couple who run this establishment. They have combined their names and passions to bring Jeju an eating experience based on a love of hard work and good food.
The restaurant is a model of tastefully basic designs. From the large bay windows, to the homemade sauces, simplicity and a quiet dedication to excellence dominate this establishment.
There are only four items on the menu. The house special “Suh-Hwang Katsu” (서황카츠) which is the pork loin or rosu-katsu, a pork fillet (안심카츠) or hire-katsu, a fish-katsu (생선카츠), and an udon salad (우동 샐러드).
I ordered everything. Twice.
The udon salad is a pleasantly unexpected combination of greens, tomatoes, shrimp, and thick udon noodles, garnished with a burly sesame dressing.
All the ingredients here are exquisitely fresh. The black pork is locally raised and the fish are caught the day you eat them, which is why you can order them as sushi if you are so inclined.
The fish-katsu, by the way, was one of the finest I’ve had, and it included an absolutely devastating tartar sauce. Each plate came with 3 to 4 different types of fish depending on the catch of the day.
I enjoyed seabass, flounder and a single, monstrous king prawn that adorned each medley. This plate is a juggernaut, and is worth a trip to Tonkatsu 서황 all by itself.
Dishes run between 10,000 and 12,000 won. You can order beer or sake if you like, and the green tea with brown rice is quite refreshing.
There are only five tables with seating for about about 20 people total, so keep it small and intimate.
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