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Fashion-Inspired Technique Creates New Tastes (December 8, 2005)

A piece of Kimukatsu (Kimukatsu)
The kasanegi (layered) look, featuring two or more layers of clothing, has become a staple of Japanese fashion in recent years, and now a culinary technique inspired by this fashion concept is gaining popularity. Described by many as kasanegi food, this technique involves arranging the same ingredient in multiple layers to create a unique texture and taste. "Layered food" has found favor among chefs in a range of different culinary fields.

25 Delicious Layers
One example of "layered food" that is currently drawing attention is a unique type of tonkatsu (pork cutlet) originally created by Yoshimi Kimura, the owner of a Japanese restaurant in Yokohama called Sanyu. The dish is now the main attraction at Kimukatsu, a specialty tonkatsu restaurant, which has been drawing large crowds to its four locations in the Tokyo-Yokohama area. The chain can also be found in a number of other cities, including Fukuoka, Osaka, and Sendai, and another restaurant opened in Nagoya in November.

Whereas traditional tonkatsu involves frying a single cut of breaded pork until its is pleasingly firm and crunchy, Kimukatsu instead layers thinly sliced pork into a single cutlet. At Kimukatsu, this "layered" dish calls for slices of pork loin from Yamagata Prefecture to be cut to an extremely thin 0.5 mm or less, layered at least 25 slices thick, battered, and then fried.

According to the company's web site, this method produces tonkatsu in which "nearly 80% of the fat melts away, leaving the juicy meat to meld with the crispy batter coating in a sensuous harmony." The end result is a cutlet lighter and leaner than its predecessors. Even women and seniors, who typically do not care for the large amounts of fat found in many tonkatsu, have given favorable reviews. Kimukatsu also offers layered cutlets seasoned with black pepper or garlic.

Some people have nicknamed the dish mirukatsu ("mille-cutlet"), since the creation resembles the flaky layers of a mille-feuille pastry when cut in half. Origin Toshu Co., operator of a large boxed-lunch and delicatessen chain, has already put this description to use by offering layered-style tonkatsu in its Mirukatsu boxed lunch.

A Kimukatsu set meal (Kimukatsu)

Double the Flavor
Layering has also found its way into the preparation of Japan's most famous food, sushi. Hanshin Shokuhin, the Osaka-based operator of the Ganso Sashimi Sushi chain, has invented Japan's first two-layered, hand-pressed sushi. The technique involves nothing more than layering sashimi - a slice of raw fish - on top of the sushi, which itself consists of a smaller portion of the same raw fish atop a small portion of vinegared rice. Although simple, this style allows one to enjoy the delicate qualities of both sushi and sashimi at the same time, a sensation that many customers say enhances the taste.

As a culinary technique, layering is hardly a recent innovation - the sandwich, for example, has been around for years. Cakes and other desserts with different layers of fruit and cream are also quite common. Dishes that involve layering assorted ingredients and then frying, grilling, or steaming are not limited to Japanese cuisine. Shops offering tonkatsu with such fillings as cheese or plum are not uncommon. And Domino's Pizza offers a popular mille-feuille pizza, with a ring of cheese baked into its crust. Clearly, layering an assortment of ingredients to create new tastes and textures is an age-old technique.

What makes mirukatsu and layered sushi different, however, is the careful layering of a single ingredient to create a new and enjoyable eating experience. There are plenty of inventive chefs in Japan, so diners can expect to be tempted by more "layered food" innovations as this technique spreads.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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