• Shona McCarthy

Vegetarian/Vegan Low Carb Ham Katsu (ハムカツ)

During one of my trips to Japan, I had the delight of eating in a little Izakaya in Kamishichiken. There, I tried a dish I had never seen in any Japanese restaurant before or since: The Hamu Katsu. I longed to have it again, but since I went on that trip, I've gone on a strictly vegetarian, low salt and somewhat low carb diet, so I can never have that dish again, no matter how much I might long for it. Then I thought, why don't I see if I can make a vegetarian low carb version for me? So I did. The truth is that while there are many good soy sausages in many countries these days, I ended up with many I wasn't finding especially appetising. Then it hit me, what if I minced them down, adding various other ingredients, and then made them into a kind of pork substitute for myself? So, one night, after a gathering I was set to attend fell through, I came home with a half-thawed pack of underwhelming vegetarian sausages and I decided to make the most of them. Please note that the figures below reflect my own tastes. You should adjust the seasonings to suit yourself. But the faux "breading" means you have few carbs, and the quantity of chickpea flour and soy sausage means you're guaranteed a good amount of protein and fibre. The tapioca starch is mostly there to help with texture. The nutritional yeast adds B group vitamins and more of a meaty taste. Really, I suppose you could use this method to recycle any unpalatable savoury food, just using 300gm of whatever you like instead of the soy sausage. And you could use real panko for breading if you're not so worried about carbs. Mixing some cheese into the "pork" will add some flavour and excitement.

RECIPE: Vegetarian/Vegan Ham Katsu "Breading"

5 tbsp Cornflakes, crumbled

5 tbsp Almond Meal

(You might need more if your faux pork is juicy, or if you're somewhere very humid.) "Pork" 300gms Vegan/Vegetarian soy based sausage (condition doesn't really matter)

5tbls Chickpea Flour

2 eggs (Replace with more Tapioca Starch and a little water for Vegans)

5 tbsp Tapioca Starch

2 tbsp Dry Sage

2 tbsp Dry Thyme

4 tbsp Garlic Powder

4 tbsp Nutritional Yeast

Salt and pepper to taste

For garnish and dipping:

A few leaves of Cos Lettuce

Kewpie Mayo


  1. Heat the frying oil of your choice in a pan. How hot to make it will depend on your set up, but the point is, it should be hot enough and deep enough to deep fry.

  2. Put all your "pork" ingredients in a blender together. It's okay if the sausages don't break down completely. In fact, I think it adds some desirable texture. It should form a dough-like consistency. If it's too wet for you to shape it, you can add a little more chickpea flour. If it's too dry, just add a tiny little bit of water.

  3. You can shape your fake pork however you like, but I try to go for a natural looking "schnitzel" sort of shape.

  4. Mix the "breading" ingredients together in a bowl. Put a faux pork cutlet in, carefully covering both sides with the breading material, pressing it in to the surface to really make it stick. You want to repeat the process with each of your faux pork cutlets individually so they don't mush each other up.

  5. Carefully place the covered pork cutlet into your hot oil. I like to use a spatula and a pair of tongs so that I can carefully lower the "meat" in and turn it without splashing hot oil everywhere.

  6. You want to check each side of the "meat" every so often. You don't want it to be brown, since that is too firm. But you do want it to be golden. I like to serve the faux pork cutlet on a bed of cos lettuce and with a some kewpie mayonnaise and some shichimitogarashi to give it more of a Japanese feeling. But in truth you can serve the cutlet any way you normally would serve such a thing, and to suit your own pallet.

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