Tonkatsu and Tonkotsu: Do You Get Them Confused?

Tonkatsu

Have you tried Tonkatsu and Tonkotsu? Which one is your favorite? If those questions made perfect sense to you, then you rock! But if you are a bit confused and just thought – “was it Tonkatsu I ate or was it Tonkotsu…what’s this Tonkotsu, now I’m really confused” – don’t worry, I’m going to help clear things up!

What is Tonkotsu (とんこつ)?

The word “Tonkotsu (豚骨/とんこつ)” is often used as “Tonkotsu Ramen (豚骨ラーメン)”. Did you just have that “ah-ha!” moment? Fantastic! 😀

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen
(豚骨ラーメン)

In Japanese, ”Ton (豚)” in “Tonkotsu (豚骨)” means “pig (Buta/豚)” and “Kotsu (骨)” means “bone (Hone/骨)”. So “Tonkotsu” means “pig bone”. Can you guess why? That’s because the broth of Tonkotsu Ramen is made with pig bones. “Yay!” to your new knowledge if you did not already know! 😀 And yeah, that may not sound so delicious, but Tonkotsu is definitely one of the amazing Japanese dishes loved by many people around the world.

Tonkotsu Ramen is originally from one of the heavily populated prefectures in Japan, called Kyushu (九州). There are several variations of Tonkotsu Ramen, such as Hakata Ramen (博多ラーメン), Nagahama Ramen (長浜ラーメン), and Kurume Ramen (久留米ラーメン) to name a few. These names – Hakata, Nagahama, and Kurume – are the names of cities located in Kyushu, but Hakata Ramen is the most well known version of Tonkotsu Ramen. But a fun fact, Kurume Ramen, is actually known as the “original” Tonkotsu Ramen.

If you are interested to read more about Tonkotsu ramen, check out this Ramen shop called Ichiran (一蘭), which is very popular for Hakata style Tonkotsu Ramen in Japan. You can read more about this ramen shop on this website. Ok, now let’s move on to the next topic, Tonkatsu. 😀

What is Tonkatsu (とんかつ)?

With the growing popularity of Tonkatsu in the US, I think most people have now heard of Tonkatsu (豚かつ/とんかつ). Do you remember what “Ton” meant? Yes, it means “pig”, the same as in “Tonkotsu”. Well then, what does “Katsu (かつ)” mean…do you know? “Katsu” means “cutlet”, so “Tonkatsu” means “pig/pork cutlet”. Doesn’t the photo below look so delicious!

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu
(とんかつ)

In Japanese cuisine, there are several different kinds of Katsu, and Tonkatsu is one of them. If you want to hear about my big love for Katsu or read more about Japanese Katsu, please check out this post: You may know Tonkatsu and Katsu Sando, but have you heard of Menchi Katsu?

There is this super popular Tonkatsu place in Tokyo Japan, which is called Tonkatsu Narikura (なりくら/成蔵). There is always a long line at this shop, even more than hour before their opening time. On a typical day, you will have to wait at least an hour. I often recommend people to try to get in line before they open, as you have the best chance to be seated within the first group after opening the doors.

But once you “experience” their Tonkatsu on that first bite, you will immediately understand the reason why people wait in that line. It’s like you enjoy the crunchiness of the deep-fried bread crumbs outside of the Tonkatsu first and right after that, this amazing softness of the pork follows with all the mouth-watering goodness of the oil from the pork meat and the Tonkatsu sauce. Sounds too good right? Here are some pictures of my last visit to this shop. It was well worth the 1hr wait! The only sad part, is that these photos simply do not tell the right tale. 😉

Now You Know the Difference Between Tonkatsu and Tonkotsu

The reason why I wrote about this post is because of the experience I had since moving to the US. I’ve seen several menus at Japanese restaurants, which had written, “Tonkatsu Ramen” with a picture of Tonkotsu Ramen. Even my husband from time to time mixes up the two words. And he has lived in Japan for more than 10 years! 😉 So I find it fairly common to hear people use Tonkatsu and Tonkotsu interchangeably, even though they are very different things. 😉

At first, I thought the menus were just a typo, but I’ve seen the same thing more than a couple of times, and it made me think, perhaps some people may be a bit misinformed. And of course, they also sound very very similar, so I think it’s easy to mix them up, for non native Japanese speakers. And if today was the first time learning one of these foods, then I hope you get the pleasure of eating it soon! They are both amazing dishes. It’s on my to do list, but I hope to add my Tonkatsu recipe to my website soon. Please comment below if you would like to see that. Your encouragement always helps and it helps me to prioritize what I add to my site.

Well, I’ve wanted to have the chance to tell people who don’t know about them well, and now I’m really happy that I could share this knowledge with you! Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope this helped to add some new Japanese food culture knowledge that you can share with others.

Eat Well, Be Happy!

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for clearing this up. I first heard about this difference from an Uncle Roger video recently and was very surprised. The signs in Japan frequently don’t include the kanji (e.g., ラメン) so its harder to notice. Now I have the details. Your columns really help me to navigate all the great food options here in Japan.

    • Thank YOU for encouraging me to write about Japanese stuff by giving me your feedback like this! I’m glad it helped you. If you have any questions or any topic about Japanese food or food culture, please feel free to tell me. It’s my pleasure to share what I have. Also, if you would like to get newsletters, you can join to subscribe here! https://www.eatwithohashi.com/subscribe/ I promise, I won’t spam you. 😉

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