Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese sandwiches

Last week, I wrote about tonkatsu, deep fried pork cutlets, for The Japan Times. I did do several ‘test cutlets’ for the article, and most of them were consumed happily by Mr. Guy. He used a small one in this Guy Does Bento, and a couple ended up as katsu sando, or tonkatsu sandwiches.

You’ll readily encounter in katsu sando in Japan - in konbini (convenience stores), bakeries, supermarkets and department store food halls. Katsu sando are always served cold or at room temperature, so the cutlet inside is not hot. Storebought tonkatsu sandwiches vary a lot in quality. When they’re good, they are filling and delicous, but when when they’re bad they can be pretty nasty.

Here are two of the better ones. They take different approaches to the question of what to do with the breaded coating.

This sandwich packet is from Maisen, a famous tonkatsu speciality restaurant in Tokyo. They use very tender Kurobuta (black pig), cut thick, and the breading is smothered in their house brand tonkatsu sauce, which is slightly sweet. By smothering the breading, the texture and flavor change. It’s certainly not crispy anymore but it’s quite tasty. You may also notice that even though each slice is wide, they are also fairly thick - only about 3/4 cm (1/3 inch or so) thick. That means that each mouthful is meaty and satisfying, but you don’t end up feeling overstuffed afterwards.


Maisen’s flagship restaurant is on Omotesando in Harajuku, in a gorgeous prewar building - well worth a visit! Frommer’s info here. They also sell their sandwiches and bentos at several fine department stores around the Tokyo area and in some other large cities. (Besides their katsu sando, I am partial to their menchi katsu.)

Here’s another, rather unique approach. This katsu sando is from a wonderful bakery in the Motomachi section of Yokohama called Uchiki Pan. They mix sesame seeds into their panko coating, which means the coating stays crunchy even when it’s cold. They only coat one side of the cutlet thinly with tonkatsu sauce (I am not sure, but I think they just use the standard ‘Bulldog’ brand). The finely shredded cabbage also adds crunch. I think this is my favorite katsu sando.


Incidentally, Uchiki Pan is one of the oldest bakeries in Japan, founded in 1888. I’ll write them up in another article (probably over on Just Hungry). Here’s their sandwich display around 11am; by 12, they are mostly sold out.


Some other Japanese sandwiches

As you may have guessed by now, sandwiches are called ‘sando’ in Japanese. (Which reminds me: years ago when I lived and worked in Manhattan, I used to pass by a small Japanese restaurant/deli that displayed a sign in their window proudly proclaiming in English: “We have: Chicken Sand, Crab Sand, Potato Salad Sand!” I’m sure that must have confused a lot of people.)

Sandwiches are just as ubiquitous in Japan as onigiri or bento boxes, and are a popular choice for lunch. (If you go to Japan and become sick of rice, there’s no reason to fear: bread is readily available!) Japanese sandwiches almost always use the same kind of bread - sliced shokupan or English-style loaf bread. White bread is the norm, though brown and whole grain bread is making slow inroads. (A recent interesting development on the bread front is bread made from rice flour.)

Here’s the most basic of sandwiches, shaki shaki (crispy) ham sandwiches from 7-11. Costing only 220 yen, it’s quite delicious with paper-thin, slightly sweet ham and crispy iceberg lettuce. Perhaps not the most nutrious of sandwiches, but I am rather addicted to them. In the background you see a packet of “mixed” sandwiches costing 250 yen: a ham and egg, a ham and cheese, and a tuna.


These ham sandwiches are of a higher class. For sale in the Shinkansen if you leave from Tokyo Station, they’re delicate sandwiches made from Kurobuta pork ham from a famous charcuterie in Kamakura. Just bread spread with mustard-butter and ham, but so good. (The yellow ones are disappointingly mediocre cheese. It’s hard getting really good cheese in Japan.)


Finally, these may be my favorite sandwiches in the world. They are certain up there, and are my favorite egg sandwiches for sure. They’re from Shinshindo, another venerable bakery, this time in Kyoto. The egg is cooked to a just-beyond-very-runny softboil stage - I’m guessing 4 to 5 minutes - and very roughly chopped up, so that every mouthful is an eggy delight. Note the two-tone bread too.


I happen to think that Japanese sandwiches are the best. But my (Japanese) mother disagrees vehemently. She says Swiss sandwiches, especially the ones from Confiserie Sprüngli on Zürich, are the best. She periodically sends me photos she took of Sprüngli sandwiches out of the blue by email, saying she dreams of them. We both laugh at each other for our sandwich obsessions.

What’s your favorite sandwich? (Bonus points if you share a photo or a link to one. ^_^)

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Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

As a child, grilled cheese was hands down my favorite. My mom made it only with President french butter, and it was simply divine.

Now, I rarely have the fatty grilled cheese, since my metabolism isn't what it used to.

The fried pork sandwich is VERY similar to an Egyptian version (not traditionally Egyptian, i am sure it was imported with the French revolution) Chicken panee sandwich. Basically fired chicken cutlet sandwich, but usually in 'Fino' Bread (foreign bread, aka, Vienna bread, like soft baguettes)

My favorite traditional sandwich has to be Taameyya sandwich (known as falafel to the western world). Egyptian falafel is VERY different from the stuff you get in the streets of NYC (which are usually Syrian or more persian recipe using chickpeas), since we use broad beans and lots of coriander. The Taameya themselves are very soft and moist, not dry. Then they are put in little bread pockets, called balady bread, similar to pita bread but with more bran in it. Also an Egyptian native.

Usually they put 1 or 2 falafel discs, spoonful of Tehina, and then salad, which is usually chopped tomato and cucumber.

Typical picture is below, it is not my website .

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

OK I give up!
I have Command plussed the picture to the max. and still can't make it out.
What are the strips of white between the egg and lettuce in the Shinshindo egg sandwich?
Cheese or do they just flatten the boiled egg.
Enquiring egg addicts need to know.

Keep smiling,

David Morton

PS. I finally took delivery of some `Kewpie' mayonnaise, good stuff!
Made the potato salad your version (web and book) next day the cucumber and the thin onion were a bit limp, tried it with green onions & egg only, instead, and that held up for a couple of days.
In Holland the street vendors sell chips (french fries) and serve them with mayonnaise.
I tried my old standby `Heinz Salad Cream' and a few others...yucky!
Kewpie is the closest to the Dutch stuff I have found... yummy.
I must say though the squishy bottles are weird!

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

That's just flattened out egg white ^_^

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

The Japanese mayo is as close to the Dutch frites mayo as you can get (without getting the real thing of course).
The Kewpie is great when making makizushi as well. Actually it is just great, period :-)

Gerrit in Toronto

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I'm not sure I'd say it's a my favorite, but when I was in Japan I was pretty fond of strawberry sandwhiches ^_^ Though, with the strawberries and whipped cream, I feel like it was more of a dessert or afternoon snack than a lucn ^_^

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Loved the idea of the sesame seed in the breading to keep it crispy. I love crispy.

My Kind of Sandwich

This is another great post Maki! It's good to learn how people from different countries define sandwich. I really would like to know how long to cook eggs to the yummy texture like in the Shinshindo sandwich, I don't buy egg sandwiches outside because they are always overcooked and look rather unappetising.

My favourite sandwich is a Malaysian-Chinese invention that was rather popular in my college days. It's usually a soft white roll with Chinese BBQ pork/ chicken jerky, Chinese meat floss, a few slices of cucumber, smothered generously with ketchup and sweet chili sauce. And for a little extra, you can add a thin omelet and cheese. For those who are unfamiliar with Chinese BBQ jerky and meat floss, the former is ground lean meat marinated in a savoury-sweet marinade, then pressed into cardboard thin squares and BBQ-ed on charcoal until semi dry and caramelised. The latter is sweet, dry cooked meat floss that has the texture and appearance of brown cotton candy. Meat floss is also used in sushi, onigiri, Asian buns or as garnish on congee and noodles.

Here's a picture of the sandwich that I borrowed from a blog but it's lacking ketchup and chili sauce

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Muffuletta!! This is a famous New Orleans sandwich that my husband saw on a tv show. He kept talking about it so I googled it and found a recipe that we have made several times. I make the bread and my guy puts it all together. Serious yummm! And one of the very few sandwiches that tastes good the next day, or even two if there is any left. Good thing that it tastes good the next day too as it is a big family sized sandwich. This is the web site that we use mostly for the recipe:

Hey Maki, I just want to say thank you for this website. I am slowly getting in to making bento lunches. I have always packed a lunch but this adds another dimension. Found some lovely pottery lunch dishes on a recent trip to Ottawa (East Wind on Richmond Rd.) and it makes it all the more fun when you can eat out of something pretty.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Hi Maki!
It's kind of hard to tell what my favorite sandwich is. Surely because i do not often eat one. And that's because the sold ones I can get here in Germany are not pretty or delicious at all. The pre-made ones in supermarkets are pale and stuffed with usual things like ham, lettuce, egg or tuna. Nothing special.
In the most bakery stores you will not see sandwiches. One bakery sells "Vesperbrot", it can be seen as a variation of sandwich, but made with whole-grain bread. And really expansive with 3,50€ for a Sandwich. So I never tasted it, but it looks good. There are lettuce, cheese, ham or salami and a lot of other things on it.
It is more usual to eat buns in the style of sandwiches. You can get a lot of different kinds. You can get plain buns ore whole grain or something between. My favorite are buns made out of the same dough as pretzels. So tasty with salad, salad creme, ham, tomato and cuke.
To get an idea of the looks, here is a picture:
Normally I don't eat those buns as lunch but more as breakfast ;)

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I love Japanese food but I can't stand the sandwiches. Only because they don't fill me up at all and for the same price I can get something else delicious like ramen lol

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

In Italy we have katsu sando as well! It is called panino con la cotoletta and when well done it is lunch heaven, with no additions but a bit of mayo and some lettuce. The bread is crunchy. Unfortunately nowadays it is usually made with a frozen, compressed meat cotoletta. Disgusting.
I tend to agree with your mother though, I find sandwiches in Switzerland, France and Germany to be among the best ones. I have a soft spot for fresh, crunchy bread, and good cheese.. A good contestant though it a well made falafel sandwich like the ones they do at L'As Du Falafel in Paris, but this is more of a complete meal (with a good ration of vegetables!) wrapped in bread, than a sandwich.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

These are my favourite, more east-european style sandwiches


Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Thank you so much for this information. I've been making tonkatsu at home, and mu husband loves it. We're planning our first trip to Tokyo. This sando info is very helpful! We come from a very sandwich oriented city. Btw, I love your blog!

Favorite Sandwich

My favorite right now is the Bee Sting from the Grilled Cheese Social recipe:

Honorable mention goes to the previous first and second place winners:
#1 Friendly's Honey BBQ Chicken SuperMelt
#2 Elephant Jumps' Curry Chicken Croissant Sandwich (Annandale, Virginia, USA)

Obviously, I'm grading strictly based on taste and not AT ALL nutrition.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Can't say that I have a favorite sandwich, but I do know that I like Japanese egg salad better than American, which is too runny for my taste. I'm not familiar with Uchiki, but another Motomachi bakery that I love--and had great sandwiches-- is Pompadour. (

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I will admit to a fondness for sandwiches I get in Schiphol airport whenever I pass through there, especially the herring ones. But my favorite one goes back to my childhood, when we always had an avocado tree in the backyard. You need a slice of rye bread - any kind of rye - and a perfectly ripe avocado. Take slices of your perfect avocado (if you are nimble with the knife, otherwise, scoop out with a spoon and mash slightly), place on your rye bread, and sprinkle with just a touch of salt. Eat. I enjoy these to this very day.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

We have a local hoagie place (you can tell it's near Philly-- I love that people like sandwiches so much they come up with regional nicknames) that makes an amazing turkey sandwich.

It's cold chopped roast turkey (they roast their own turkeys in the shop), mayonnaise, stuffing and cranberry sauce on a crusty Italian roll. I know plenty of places make a "Thanksgiving" sandwich, but this one is heaven. :)

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

For breakfast this morning, I was planning to have a peanut butter sandwich on a slice of bread. Then I realized I still had 1 of the 2 hard boiled eggs from yesterday's lunch. And there was potato salad leftover from the office bbq the day before that. So I had a potato salad & 1/2 a hard boiled egg sandwich. Mmmm!

My current sandwich love is banh mi. The combination of sweet/salty/savory/vinegary flavors and meaty/crunchy/crispy/flaky textures... so fantastic.

I may have a slight addiction to putting delicious things in bread. As a kid I opened up the Thanksgiving dinner rolls and stuffed the turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes into them, because they tasted better as a sandwich.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

My favorite sandwich...which is rather odd, I admit, is cucumber and hard boiled egg. Sometimes I like adding ham, but sliced cucumber and egg on a crusty baguette-- YUM. The only reason I started eating them is because my ex modified a pita sandwich he used to eat while serving in Iraq. He said they basically stuffed everything in a pita pocket, the hard boiled egg and cucumber being most memorable to him.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I have a couple. First off is homemade ham salad sandwich. My grandmother would make them and bring them for grandparents day when I was in grade school, so it is a nostalgia thing. Second would be one I make. Pumpernickel bread, with a chive cream cheese, Swiss cheese, and Krakus ham or Genoa salami. Sometimes I would add in a thin slice of american ( land of lakes, never singles here)

my favorite sandwich

Is from Greiners sub shop. It's a family owned business that has off and on had at least one store, sometimes two, open in Indianapolis for....all time I think. they make their own bread, different kinds, you can get six inch or foot long sandwiches with a wide variety of your choice of vegetable or sauce toppings, they generally have a goodly amount of meat/cheese on them and for a little extra, you can request "double meat". They are filling, the meat used is very high quality and you can get them toasted if you like.

I like the mushroom steak with provolone cheese added, I usually get a foot long and eat the second half the next day. the mushroom gravy on it is INCREDIBLE, I have tried and tried and can not duplicate it.

Oh god I am so hungry for one now and it's a 120 mile round trip to get there :( Well, they wouldn't be open at 4 in the morning anyway.

here's is their website with the link to the sandwiches, they also have pizza and salads and other interesting stuff.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I love [vegetarian] banh mi. Freshly made mayo is a must! My favorite place to get these was Dalat Subs in Raleigh, NC, USA. It's been a decade since I've been there but I still speak about them fondly. From the website, it looks like the sandwich shop may have closed and the sandwiches are now available in the main restaurant:

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I think my favorite sandwich would be the vegetable sandwich I started making a couple of years ago. I usually use sliced whole wheat bread and pile on strips of fresh red bell pepper, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, provolone cheese, and maybe a little lettuce if I'm in the mood for it. I sort of glue it all together with a bit of hummus or chipotle Miso Mayo. Sometimes I like a little pickle.

In terms of storebought lunch, though, the original chicken salad sandwiches from Chick-fil-a are my personal downfall. The restaurant started in the town where I went to school, so I grew up loving them. Unfortunately the closest one to where we live now is about 4 hours away. They have now changed the bread and added lettuce so it's not as good, but when I am visiting my family I know which of the restaurants will make the original sandwich by request.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

(cue evocative music...) Ah, sandwiches I have known....
I LOVE a good sandwich, and I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite dealers: Roy's ( --- their main page has a slide show of some of they're amazing, messy sandwiches.) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. If you've found the train tracks and you're wondering why you're there, you've found the right place. 200 sandwiches, people.
Also awesome, the Heidelberg Bakery in Arlington, Virginia -- such good bread, such tasty cold cuts...mmmm.....
And I haven't been there in a couple years, but provided they're still around you should check out Let there be bagels! in Port Washington, New York.... (I have love for a good bagel sandwich).
Mmmm... sandwich, sandwich, sandwich....
(I also get sandwich inspiration from here:

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

We love Japanese sandwiches! By far, my favorite is the egg. My husband loves the katsu sandwich. I love the ham, cheese and loads of lettuce sandwhiches. That's the one my daughter also likes.

The strangest sandwhich I've seen is spaghetti. The most interesting have been the whipped cream and blueberry (or strawberry) sandwiches. Have not tried them but they are intriguing.

My daughter recently had a sandwhich at a coffee shop that was something curried. She said it was quite good.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Being the Hispanophile that I am, for me nothing can compare to a sandwich with Iberian ham (bocadillo de jamón ibérico). Just two components: a crusty baguette and meticulously thinly-sliced Spanish dry-cured ham, sublime in their simplicity but anything but austere. The ham, an extravagant ingredient even in its native Spain, is so gorgeously meaty and marbled with fat, it almost literally melts in the mouth. I nursed one of these sandwiches in the Madrid airport when a simple transatlantic flight turned into a 24-hour nightmare, and it may well have saved me from the edge of insanity.

Spanish "bocadillos" in all their permutations are definitely the stuff dreams are made of; the aforementioned Iberian ham, its inferior but still delicious cousin Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, chorizo, and even leftover Spanish tortilla--a towering potato omelette imbued with olive-oily goodness--are just some of the stars of Spanish sandwich fare. But jamón ibérico remains the king of Spanish charcuterie and I, lacking regal means with which to acquire this culinary prize, must bitterly suffer its absence until my travels take me Spain-ward once more!

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

My all time favorite sandwich: grilled ham and cheese. Hit this link to see one I made earlier:

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Ohh, I remember my favorite sandwich. It's the Hot Truck, the original French bread pizza sandwich served from a food truck on a cold college campus in the middle of the night. My favorite version was the quarter loaf with meatballs, sausage, lettuce and mayo, light on the cheese, and BBQ potato chips. All that, in a sandwich. Don't worry, I didn't eat it that often, and it was probably more about the context, but I do miss it.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Oh my, the katsu ones look amazing.

My personal favorite sandwiches are beef Vietnamese subs, and New England Clam Rolls--deep-fried clams on a New-England style hot dog bun (basted with butter and toasted if the place is any good!).

I love the look of all the sandwiches above--that lovely spongey bread cut so perfectly! Yum.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

My husband's family is from Sicily, so we're very partial to Italian sandwiches. Thankfully, there's an AWESOME Sicilian deli just blocks from our home in San Diego and they make the best sandwiches. My current favorite is their Mama Mia -- grilled eggplant, peppers and onions with goat cheese and balsamic dressing on a freshly baked Italian roll. Delicious! My second favorite is their Caprese -- fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil pesto on the aforementioned roll. I've taken my foodie cousins here and they exclaimed it was the best sandwich they've ever eaten. :)

As a Mexican-American, I'm also partial to tortas -- a circular roll usually spread with beans and guacamole (or slices of avocado), then filled with lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of meat, like carne or pollo asada, machaca or carnitas. Very, very good!

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

Probably the one one that makes me drool the most is a, well a sort of turkey dinner sandwich. Spread one slice of bread with kewpie, one slice with stone ground mustard. Then in the middle roasted turkey, warm stuffing (a bit wet for spreading), orange cranberry sauce, and some type of creamy cheese like havarti or butterkase.Its probably so exciting because I only make it a couple times a year. I also love egg sandwiches with bulldog sauce, katsu sandwiches and jam/cream cheese sandwiches!

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

I think I just like sandwiches in general. I can't decide on a favorite. I have been longing for a tasty Bahn Mi.

Katsu sando are great. I don't even like really spongy bread, but I will eat it in that case. It reminds me of one of my dad's favorite sandwiches. A pork chop on white bread. Pork chop sandwiches are sort of an old school American thing, and they never completely go away.

Fried pork and white bread seems to be a favorite combination all over! When it comes to food, it's really neat to see how many dishes the world has in common, with variations on a basic theme.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

When I was in Japan, one of my favorite things to eat were the cute little sandwiches at the supermarket. I didn't have katsu sando, but I had the ones with ham, egg salad, and cucumber. They were so good and delicate and refreshing. The bread was so soft, too. I definitely miss them.

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

All my favourite sandwitches are open-faced, as that is what's common in Norway. My abolute favourite is pickled herring with lots of onion on dark rye bread, closely followed by deep fried plaice with remoulade. Oh, and liver paté with pickled cucumbers and beets! Mmm, I'm feeling hungry just thinking about it...

Here's a picture of some herring:

Re: Two approaches to katsu sando, plus more Japanese ...

One of my favorite sandwiches of all time was one that a company in Boulder, Colo. used to make back when I was a student in the early 80's. We could buy them in the campus student union, and there were several varieties. The one I liked best was composed of sharp cheddar cheese, apple slices, shredded carrot, chopped walnut, and alfalfa sprouts, with some kind of spread (I'm assuming mayo) on a whole-wheat bread. The bread kind of fell apart as you were eating it, but it was awesome. I miss those even though it's been 30-odd years.

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