Tonteki (トンテキ) is a Japanese pork loin steak served in a savory and citrusy sauce. This quick and easy recipe takes just 15 minutes from start to finish! Inspired by the Japanese drama Midnight Diner.
Tonteki was featured on the popular Japanese TV program called “Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)” or “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” which is now available on Netflix.
Episode of Tonteki from Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
Midnight Diner features Japanese dishes that are more representative of home-cooked recipes than Japanese restaurant menus in the US. If you’re interested in Japanese home-cooked meals, you will enjoy this show as much as I do!
Tonteki’s episode is Season 1, Episode 3 on Netflix.
Tonteki – Japan’s Regional Food
One of the characteristics I love about Japan is each region has its own unique culture and well-known food made with local ingredients. These regions are not too far apart, and sometimes even by taking just a 20-minute train ride, you can experience very different food (e.g. Osaka and Kyoto). I love traveling in Japan and visiting new places to experience local special food, arts & crafts,s and such. This is probably why we have a culture of buying local souvenirs or gifts wherever we go to bring back home to family and friends.
Until I watched Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, I had never seen or had Tonteki (トンテキ). Tonteki is a regional food in Mie Prefecture in central Japan. That’s where Tenmusu (Shrimp Tempura Rice Ball) originated from as well!
Tonteki is one of the simpler dishes featured in Midnight Diner; it is pan-seared pork loin steak. Ton (豚) means pork in Japanese, as you may already be familiar with Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and Tonkotsu (pork broth), and -teki (テキ) comes from suteeki (ステーキ) which means steak in Japanese. For those of you who study/read Japanese, Tonteki トンテキ is sometimes written as とんテキ、豚てき、とんてき、豚テキ, with the different combination of hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
The original Tonteki was introduced at the Chinese restaurant Lai Lai Ken (來來憲らいらいけん) in Yokkaichi (四日市) after WWII. The pork loin steak is cooked with thick garlic soy sauce and served with shredded cabbage.
This dish is also known as Glove-yaki (グローブ焼き) as the pork loin with slits resembles baseball gloves. These slits are added so that it’s easier to eat with chopsticks and it also helps cook the meat faster without overcooking it.
What Makes It Tonteki??
According to Yokkaichi Tonteki Association (how cool they have an association for this dish!), in order to call a dish “Tonteki”, it has to have the following four requirements:
- Served with dark rich savory sauce
- Thick pork loin is used
- Garnished with garlic
- Served with thinly shredded cabbage
However, as you see in today’s dish, the master (the main actor) from Midnight Diner made Tonteki that’s slightly different from the original style Tonteki. As this series on JOC is a recreation of the master’s recipe, I followed how he made it in this episode. Maybe when I have a chance to try Tonteki in Yokkaichi, I’ll re-create the original version. My family loved this simple dish and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.
If you want to check out other Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories – Season 1 Recipes, read Netflix Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories – Season 1 Recipes.
For the Garnish (optional)
- ¼ head green cabbage
- 1 tomato
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Over a small bowl, grate ¼ onion (use about half of it) and set aside.
- Shred ¼ head green cabbage into thin slices (I’m using a Japanese cabbage shredder) and cut 1 tomato into wedges.
- Make the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine 3 Tbsp ponzu, 3 Tbsp sake, and ½ Tbsp soy sauce. Whisk it all together.
- In order to sear the meat perfectly, pat dry 2 boneless pork loin chops (½-inch thick) with paper towels. Removing the moisture will prevent the meat from steaming.
- Make a couple of slits on the connective tissue between the meat and the fat on both sides of the meat. Red meat and fat have different elasticities and will shrink and expand at different rates when cooked. These slits allow the pork loin chops to stay nice and flat while cooking instead of curling up.
- Season one side of the meat with ⅛ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper (the sauce is salty, so you can skip the salt here if you‘d like).
- Coat the meat with 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour) and remove the excess flour.
- Heat the frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 Tbsp neutral oil. When the pan is hot, add the pork loin chops. Cook for 4 minutes on each side. Do not flip until the bottom is nicely golden brown. If you‘re preparing more than 2 pieces, cook them in batches. Give some space between the meat to ensure nice searing and prevent steaming the meat. Browning the meat gives an important flavor component. The meat should be flat to get evenly golden brown, and that‘s why making slits is important in step 6.
- If you see protein coming out from the meat, you can remove it and wipe off the excess oil (optional).
- Add the sauce and grated onion to the pan.
- Pour the sauce over the meat with a spoon and coat the meat well.
- If you eat with chopsticks, transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice it into bite-size pieces. Serve the Tonteki with the shredded cabbage and tomatoes. Pour the extra sauce over the cabbage, if you‘d like. Garnish with parsley (optional).
- Keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a month.