Ivan Ramen's Schmaltz-Fried Chicken Katsu

It's a simple but ingenious idea, why not fry chicken in its own fat? In his new book Ivan Ramen, Ivan Orkin does just that. Tonkatsu is a Japanese take on the Austrian wiener schnitzel, yet Ivan here uses chicken instead, serving it with lashings of tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage and steamed rice.

Ivan Ramen is both a memoir and a cookbook. This recipe brings back memories of the classic Tokyo diner dish Ivan enjoyed countless times when he first arrived in Japan. As he says:

Cook this for your family, and somewhere a young, aimless Ivan Orkin with poor Japanese skills will be smiling upon you.
This recipe is taken from the beautiful, recently published Ivan Ramen. Many thanks to Ivan Orkin and Bloomsbury Publishing for sharing such a delightful recipe with us.

Ingredients Serves: 4

  • 4 x 150g skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 500ml cold water
  • 28g salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1⁄2 green cabbage
  • 170g plain flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 80g panko breadcrumbs
  • 240ml chicken fat (page 104)
  • 700ml vegetable oil
  • Warm steamed rice, to serve
  • Bottled tonkatsu sauce, to serve


  1. Place each breast between two sheets of clingfilm or baking parchment. Pound the breast flat using a meat mallet or the bottom of a saucepan until it’s uniformly about 1cm thick.
  2. Mix together the water, salt and garlic and stir until the salt dissolves. (This quick brine is a great flavouring agent that you can use with any meat when your time is short.) Add the chicken to the brine and soak for 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Shred the cabbage with a sharp knife or mandolin; reserve in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Place the flour, eggs and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Beat the eggs.
  4. Remove the breasts from the brine and quickly pat them dry. Dredge each breast in the flour and shake off the excess. Next, give the breasts a quick dip in the egg, again shaking off any excess. Finally, coat the breasts with panko. Press the breadcrumbs on to the meat to form a solid crust.
  5. Choose a sauté pan large enough to hold one or two of the chicken breasts, and deep enough so that the fat can cover the meat completely with plenty of room to spare. Heat the chicken fat and vegetable oil in the pan over medium heat to 176°C, then carefully slide in one or two breasts, depending on how many fit in your pan. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until crisp and browned. Remove the fried breasts to a plate lined with kitchen paper and season with salt. Cook the remaining breasts in the same way.
  6. Drain the cabbage well.
  7. Serve the chicken with rice and a pile of cabbage on the side. Drizzle tonkatsu sauce all over everything.
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