Donkatsu indulgence for summer evenings
For an afternoon indulgence of beer and meat, a friend and I stopped by a Tokyo-based chain that specializes in donkatsu, Saboten, for take-outs (not many people know that Saboten offers take-outs) of a seafood cutlet set (12,500 won, $13.26) and a Saboten set (14,000 won). Donkatsu, meaning pork cutlet in Japanese, is enjoyed by people of every age and class in Korea. Like the variety of people who enjoy donkatsu, the cutlets themselves can vary in quality and taste.
The donkatsu restaurants around university areas or in areas where taxi drivers stop by for quick meals, are recognizably quantity-over-quality. With cutlets the size of an A4 piece of paper, costing less than 3,000 won, these jumbo-sized donkatsu often taste like bland rubber fried in the richest, greasiest oil. Like McDonald’s cheeseburgers, these have their perks during somber nights, especially around break-ups or exam periods.
Saboten, on the other hand, serves tender, juicy pieces of meat and seafood (ranging from shrimp and fish to chicken, pork and beef) covered in light batter and fried in corn oil. The seafood cutlet set consisted of shrimp and fish cutlets and potato cakes and came with a tartar sauce for the fish and a light soy sauce for the shrimp. The Saboten set consisted of pork sirloin and shrimp cutlets, again with the light soy sauce plus a tangy, Worcestershire sauce for the meat.
What set Saboten’s donkatsu off from others I’ve tasted was that, besides the fine quality of the meat and the distinctly crispy outside, there was a thin layer of pork belly fat wrapped around the lean meat. The extra layer gave the pork a similar texture to a well-marbled piece of steak. With side dishes of rice, miso soup and cabbage salad, the sets were easily a meal and a half.
After we looked at the slightly overpriced beer menu, we decided to go to a convenient store nearby and get the same Asahi beers for a fraction of the cost. Sitting on a bench in a nearby park, we generously drank and ate our way into summer’s temptation.
by Cho Jae-eun
Saboten has 16 stores in Korea, with its main branch behind Seoul City Hall. The nearest subway is City Hall station, line No. 1 and 2, exit 4.
For more information, call (02) 776-4510 or visit www.saboten.co.kr.