Try Non-Traditional Old Katsudon: A Century Of Flavors At Koharuken


We tried the Old Katsudon at Koharuken- A super old age recipe that’s somehow non traditional!

In my exploration of culinary innovation, I encountered a dish that exemplifies a blend of crispiness and tradition: the pork cutlet bowl, affectionately known in Japan as katsudon. 

This specialty veers from tradition where the egg and pork elements collaborate but remain distinct, a style gaining traction among enthusiasts for its crispy enjoyment.

During a meander through the Ningyocho district of Tokyo, I stumbled upon a culinary relic that reshapes the katsudon experience.

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Koharuken, a modest eatery in proximity to Ningyocho Station, presents a katsudon variation that intrigues at first glance.

Old Katsudon

A Quick Glance At The Super Old But Non-traditional Katsudon At Koharuken 

Aptly named “Koharuken Special Katsudon,” this dish refuses to conform to the conventional appearance one would expect from such a storied meal.

A typical katsudon harmoniously combines pork cutlet, egg, and rice—and occasionally features subtle notes from onions or a dash of cabbage in eggless versions. 

However, the Koharuken Special serves a myriad of cubed vegetables atop the bowl, an uncommon sight that piqued my culinary curiosity.

  • Price Point: 1,300 yen (with a side of miso soup containing clams); a value that holds its own in the upscale region of downtown Tokyo.
  • Serving Style: A delightful balance struck between enveloping the katsu in egg and preserving its crisp profile, achieved with a soft-boiled egg that customers may choose to consume independently or integrate with the rice.
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The historical roots of Koharuken’s innovative dish reach back to its 1912 origins, crafted by founder Tanesaburo Kojima. 

Yet over time, this unique recipe faded into obscurity, only to be resurrected later through the memories of family lineage.

Commanding the helm of the restaurant, the fourth-generation proprietor, Yuji, reinvigorated the dish that his great-grandfather once popularized. 

Despite never having tasted it himself, Yuji relied on the recollections of his father, Mikio, who savored the dish in his youth as prepared by his own grandfather, Tanesaburo.

Today, the Koharuken Special stands as the star of the menu, fitting within the broader category of “sauce katsudon.” 

The meat is savory, bathed in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce that teases the palate. Introducing the soft-boiled egg’s yolk contributes another layer of rich, creamy texture to the dish.

The real conversation starters, however, are the vegetables, simmered in a hearty demi-glace sauce, tender, and rich, presenting a fusion of flavors that was once ahead of its time:

  • Pork Cutlet (Katsu): Bite-sized, coated in a distinct sweet sauce.
  • Soft-boiled Egg: Adds a creamy richness when broken and mixed.
  • Vegetables: A medley of stewed carrot, onion, green pepper, and potato, each contributing its essence to the demi-glace.

Non-Traditional Old Katsudon At Koharuken – Taste Test! 

Initially, the introduction of vegetables, especially potatoes, struck a peculiar note for me, diverging from traditional Japanese culinary norms. 

But any initial hesitation soon gave way to contentment, as the sheer delectability of the dish reaffirmed that some recipes, even those birthed over a century ago, deserve to be savored anew.

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I enthusiastically share my findings not just for the experience of this distinctive katsudon, but also to celebrate Koharuken’s commitment to heritage and innovation—a precious culinary intersection where history meets the taste buds of a new generation.

  • Koharuken
  • Location: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 1-7-9
  • Hours: 11 a.m.-1:45 p.m., 5 p.m.-7:45 p.m. on weekdays; 11 a.m.-1:45 p.m. on Saturdays
  • Closed: Sundays and holidays

Having had the pleasure to dine there, I can attest that Koharuken is a testament to culinary evolution, ensuring its patrons can enjoy a historical flavor that has been tenderly preserved and updated through the generations.

What Distinguishes Koharuken’s Katsudon Recipe?

The Koharuken restaurant is recognized for presenting a unique take on katsudon that diverges from the standard preparation. 

Their recipe revives a historical version that emphasizes a distinctive blend of flavors, appealing to both traditionalists and adventurers alike due to its old-school authenticity.

Key Menu Highlights at Koharuken

When visiting Koharuken, I would suggest trying several of their acclaimed dishes. Aside from their specialty katsudon, the restaurant likely offers other must-try items that showcase their culinary expertise in blending tradition with innovation.

The Difference Between Katsudon and Pork Katsu

Katsudon and pork katsu are related yet distinct dishes. Katsudon typically consists of a breaded pork cutlet (pork katsu) served over rice with egg and other ingredients. In contrast, pork katsu is the cutlet itself, served without the accompanying rice and egg mixture.

An Overview of Katsudon’s Origins and Cultural Significance

Katsudon has a rich history and is steeped in tradition, often enjoyed as a comfort food in Japan. It represents a melding of flavors from a breaded pork cutlet with a savory-sweet sauce, typically served over rice and topped with egg. 

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The dish carries cultural significance and is sometimes consumed by students hoping for success before exams, due to a pun in the Japanese language where “katsu” can mean “to win.”

Alternate Names for Katsudon

Katsudon is known by various names depending on regional variations and preparation styles. 

Some of these include katsu meshi, tonkatsu donburi, and simply katsu don, showcasing the dish’s versatility across Japan.

Katsudon as a Breakfast Option in Japan

Having katsudon for breakfast in Japan is less common; the dish is more traditionally viewed as a lunch or dinner meal. 

However, owing to its hearty and filling nature, it can serve as a satisfying start to the day for those seeking a substantial breakfast.

What do you think?

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