Tonkotsu? Tonkatsu? What’s the Difference?

Tonkotsu vs Tonkatsu
  • Tonkotsu is pork bone broth. Tonkatsu is fried pork cutlet.

Tonkotsu (toe-n-koh-tsu), tonkatsu (toe-n-kah-tsu)… one tiny vowel changes everything. It’s so easy to mix up these words. Have you caught yourself mixing these words up?

I see it all the time. I guess after 20 something years in Japan I’ve grown a keen eye for these errors.  It makes sense; they are so close — nothing to feel bad about.

But if you say the wrong word when asking a Japanese person for help, you’re going to get an answer you’re not expecting. Let’s cover each separately.

What is Tonkotsu?

Tonkotsu (豚骨) is a pork bone broth; normally used in ramen. The kanji you see here literally translates to pig bone

You’ll very quickly discover tonkotsu ramen is very different from ramen shop to ramen shop. Some will have thick, hearty soup — some a lighter, creamier — and almost every imaginable combination in between.

There are a metric bazillion ramen shops in Tokyo. You can’t possibly try every flavor of tonkotsu available. The amazing thing is if you enjoy the taste of tonkotsu, you’ll probably enjoy every bowl of tonkotsu ramen you try — no matter the shop and no matter what they’ve done to make theirs unique.

Update: my ramen handbook is out! Check it out, totally free, here on TokyoSpark.

Here’s a quality video showing tonkotsu being made. It’s not Japanese, but the chef goes through a ton of turmoil to make it and it exudes the effort it takes to create the perfect tonkotsu.

What is Tonkatsu?

Tonkatsu (豚カツ) is a fried pork cutlet. Pork battered and fried to perfection and usually served with shredded cabbage.

There are probably a trillion variations to try in Tokyo. You probably think I’m kidding, but there’s a lot! Okay, maybe not a trillion but you know what I mean.

I bet you could try a new tonkatsu place every day and not eat at the same restaurant for a few years. And there’d be new shops popping up all the time too. 

This fantastic video sums up the quality of Japanese tonkatsu very nicely. It’s one of my favorite videos about this delicious food.

As you can see, tonkotsu and tonkatsu have only one thing in common: they are both pork (豚) products. 

Hand-picked articles to help you learn more

As always, here are some fantastic articles I discovered while doing the research for this one. I went all the way to down to page 12 on Google for these!

Tonkotsu vs. Tonkatsu

The word tonkotsu literally translates to “pig bone” or “pork bone” in Japanese, but of course, you won’t be ordering a pig bone for dinner. Therefore, in most Asian cuisine restaurants, “tonkotsu” is usually referring to a broth which is made from pork bones.

It is made by simmering or boiling pork bone, or pork marrow for about 8 to 12 hours, and adding various seasonings. With that amount of time, the pork marrow releases all of its flavors into the steamed water, by creating a thick and creamy tonkotsu broth.

Continue on Eiji Ramen

What is Tonkatsu? (Different from Tonkotsu)

Tonkatsu is basically deep-fried breaded pork, which is often served with a thick sauce, cabbage and rice.

Tonkatsu is a combination of two words; the first being “ton” (豚), which means pork and the second one is “katsu”, which is short for “katsuretsu” (カツレツ). The latter comes the French word côtelette, which means meat chop or cutlet.

Continue on Favy JP

A Guide To Ramen Broth: Shio, Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu

Tonkotsu ramen broth (no, it is not the same as tonkatsu) is opaque and milky in appearance. Why it looks that way deserves more than a cursory explanation.

Tonkotsu ramen broth is made with pork bones—in particular, pork hock and trotters. They are boiled for several hours until the collagen and fat break down and liquefy. Collagen, found in the bones and in the tendons that surround the bones, makes the broth dense and slightly sticky.

Collagen and fat, together, turn the liquid milky and opaque.

Continue on CASA Veneracion

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