For the Love of Pork Katsu

My comfort food here in Taipei is pork katsu. I know, I know, it isn’t Taiwanese but it’s one of the best food discoveries I made here. The golden bread crumbs, the sumptuous marbling of fat and pork, the sour katsu sauce perfumed by the essence of sesame seeds, the way all of these pair together with purple rice and a nice helping of shredded cabbage is just beyond any reasonable doubt DIVINE.

At present, there are three tonkatsu places that I go to when the craving strikes. So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, treat this post as a foodie’s guide to the best katsu options in town–at least, from my perspective.

The Favorites

Chitaka

Chitaka is probably the most accessible katsu place for tourists, assuming you are staying near Taipei Main Station MRT. Actually, I would advise you to stay near this MRT station because it’s your gateway to the entire island of Taiwan.

Chitaka is on the 3rd floor of WutuAkiba IT Mall (beside Shin Kong Mitsukoshi). Once you get to the third floor, turn left if you took the elevator and left again when you see this hallway. If you came from the escalator, spot the same hallway then go straight. Soon enough, the restaurant will reveal itself to you.

Saboten

So I just found out that Saboten is already in the Philippines. Hooray! Here in Taipei, it’s the nearest katsu place from my current residence. The one I frequent can be accessed via the Zhongshan MRT station (red line). Get off at Exit 2 and turn left. Just beside McDonald’s is Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and that’s where Saboten is, on the 7th floor.

Anzu

This is the katsu place that got me hooked into porking. Heh. I first sampled this with my parents when they visited here last year. I didn’t know then that it was a katsu place. We just tried it because it looks nice, not jampacked (that time) and we were so hungry we needed immediate sustenance! Then the rest, is glorious pork katsu history.

There’s a couple of Anzus I know–one on the 8th floor of Sogo Tianmu and one on Hankyu mall. Anzu gets long waiting lines on weekends and holidays during lunch and dinner time, but fear not as the pork is worth the wait. This scene usually happens in their Hankyu branch, which is also within the area where the world-famous Taiwanese landmark–Taipei 101–can be found.

Anzu at Hankyu Mall – Get off at Taipei City Hall MRT station (blue line) then go to Exit 2. Turn left and walk straight ahead, right into Hankyu mall. The first restaurant on the right side is Anzu.

Menu 

Chitaka lets you choose between their set meal and the royal set meal.

Chitaka and Anzu both have English menus. However, the reason why I forgot to take a photo of Saboten’s is because they only have their menus in Chinese. So thinking about the possibility of sharing it in a post was shelved as I got busy trying to navigate the menu with what little I know of Chinese (which is basically just the numbers 1, 2, 3).

What they lack in English menu though, they make up for by having some English-speaking wait staff to assist you. Still, I wish they would consider having an English menu too for foreigners and tourists.

Most, if not all, of Anzu’s inclusions in the menu already come in a set meal.
(with unlimited rice, cabbage, and pork…NOT!)

The best thing I like about eating pork katsu in either of these options is that I can take advantage of sets–pork katsu with side dishes and unlimited rice and cabbage, plus drinks and dessert. I’m not sure if the same applies in Saboten, but I know in Anzu and Chitaka you can opt to have either just dessert or drinks if you want the cheaper set meal price.

You can also go ala carte (just main course with unlimited rice, cabbage, and miso soup) if you want the cheapest meal option.

Sesame Seeds

From these options…

grinding ’em over at Anzu

The winner is Saboten!

Why? Because they are the only ones offering a mix of the black and white sesame seeds. The black sesame seeds are tastier than the toasted white sesame seeds.

Side Dishes

I think side dishes are quite important when it comes to eating pork katsu. I can’t help but feel umay in the middle of eating this porky goodness if I only feast on the actual meat, rice, cabbage, then repeat. Eating side dishes cleans the palate and provides a new alternative for my taste buds.

Chitaka sort of loses at the side dish contest, because they only have these.

But it’s still okay. I think the one on the right are bamboo shoots and I don’t know what the green ones are but they are also good. It goes well together and provides a welcome break from the other stuff on my tray.

Saboten’s side dish is made up of black beans and radish.

I am a fan of the black beans, with its sweet contrast from all the sour, salty, and crispy fanfare happening in my mouth. It’s a welcome distraction and the black beans are cooked just right–not too soft that it breaks like mash when you chew it and not too hard that it can be hazardous to dentures. It’s like eating healthy pieces of jelly beans. In contrast, I don’t like the radish that much and hardly touch it. I often find myself just taking a couple of strips to sample and that’s it.

And now, may I present to you the awesomely good daikon, or tsukemono, from Anzu.

This you gotta try. It really works up your appetite as it gets served first than the  cabbage. Daikon is actually made from radish and Anzu’s version is a bit sweet and, well, something else. Whatever that something else is, all I can say is that it’s sooooo delicious. You can eat it on its own, mix it with the cabbage, or eat it with the katsu, or try to dip it in the katsu sauce and you know what? IT’S ALL GOOD.

Miso soup, Rice, and Cabbage

The katsu staple–unlimited miso soup, rice, and cabbage. This is how it is for all three.

However, I think for this Anzu deserves another win. Why? Simply because they have purple rice.

Anzu lets you enjoy rice minus the guilt for an unlimited number of servings.

Saboten and Chitaka both have white rice which are nicely cooked and can be easily picked up with your chopsticks.

Miso soup for all three are the same, although Anzu earns another plus points for offering two options–vegetable miso soup or pork miso soup. Chitaka includes some anchovies in theirs while Saboten is, well, miso soup with seaweed and tofu.

Despite its strong fresh flavor, I discovered that red onions go well with shredded cabbage via Anzu.

I love having the shredded cabbage as a better alternative to rice. I can eat those pork pieces without worrying about the carbs. A downside of eating pork katsu, especially for folks who are health-conscious, is that it just makes you eat cups and cups of rice. Thanks to shredded cabbage, you can go on feasting on pork in a more guilt-free manner.

Saboten always provides a pair of serving chopsticks–very hygienic indeed.

Cabbage-wise, I give both Anzu and Saboten a fair shake. Thumbs down to Chitaka’s for getting soggy if I don’t eat it right away. Must be because they’ve been placed in water for too long. Meh.

The Main Event – Pork

Okay folks, now this. Brace yourself, fill yourself up, for I will take you into the depths of pork katsu goodness. Do not read on if you are currently hungry or in the midst of battling cravings.

I actually have no favorites among the three because all of them have their own special way of cooking pork katsu that makes them distinct and worth another visit.

Chitaka

And again…

Saboten

To infinity…

Anzu

I am at a loss for words. There are none to describe the experience of biting into any of these pieces, feeling the crisp crumbs hit your palate as you know full well that they have been fried to perfection. The pork inside. Oh yes the pork inside melts in your mouth as you chew on them.

It was painfully tempting to see this photo again. Saboten, you never fail to sabotage my rice diet. 

The pork pieces are well-chosen and the taste oozes out of the meat itself and not from some seasoning. If you eat it immediately after being served to you, some fatty tasty juice may come out of the meat thus elevating you further up onto katsu heaven.

Chitaka adds a few hints of pepper inside their pork pieces, making the pork even more perfect than it already is.

Chitaka, Saboten, and Anzu all serve pork that is big enough to chew on yet not too thick to overpower the crumbs and of course, your mouth. Even if you don’t order the tenderloin kind, you can still get pork katsus that you can bite into with gusto without feeling like you’re only being made to believe there’s pork but really, it’s just a bunch of bread crumbs with some pork added in it.

Anzu always gives justice to your order. See how big the lean pork is compared to the bread crumbs? You always get that feel that you are having an ethereal katsu experience with a super holistic approach. Whatdaef am I saying.

The pork also absorbs the katsu sauce in that meant-to-be kind of way that fittingly complements the tasty fatty goodness the meat already has. In effect, you have sweet and salty and crispy and fatty and flavorful bursting inside your mouth like a galaxy of deliciousness. I have to stop typing about these babies now because the clock says 10PM and none of these restos are open at this time so…

Dessert and Drinks

Depending on the price of the add-ons, you have the power to choose which dessert to have afterwards.

Coffee pudding at Anzu is big enough for two.

For Anzu, they have four options but I always end up choosing the coffee pudding because of its coffee goodness. Since Anzu gives big dessert portions, order differently from each other if you are eating here with friends or family. You can also choose a drink that falls within the 80NTD price range or else, you need to add some extra.

Saboten makes green tea ice cream an indulgence you won’t feel guilty about.

This mango pudding from Saboten is jelly, not cream.

I love Saboten’s green tea ice cream. The other option is mango pudding, which is also good, but I think it’s too bite size for a dessert.

For Chitaka, I’m not sure if there are other options but I always choose from their pudding variants. I know, I know, the picture might not be that mouth-watering but I just love their green tea variant. Also, there’s some caramel you can scoop right from the bottom. Their pudding actually reminds me of the Pinoy-favorite leche flan, only with more flavor options.

Still alive and kicking with a normal heart rate?

Writing this post took a long while because I was trying to relive every friggin’ memory I’ve had while eating at these places. It was difficult because I can almost taste each of the stuff I was describing here. When I got to the pork part I almost wanted to discontinue and forget about this post because it was so tough to re-imagine eating those prized pork-sessions especially when I just came from an epic bike ride and would not want to waste all those fatsies I just burned.

And can I just confess too that it was kind of torturous to go through and post those pork katsu pictures? MAN OH MAN.

Anyway, I hope you get to visit any of these katsu places. And if you must know, I highly recommend Anzu among the three. It is actually my favorite katsu place here because of the simple yet flavorful daikon. I think that’s their winning piece on the menu as it is something that I can only get from them. Their purple rice variant is also superb. If you can’t take away the health-conscious foodie in you, might as well find a way to compromise without suppressing your love for these fried katsu lovelies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sixteen − 13 =