Deep-fried breaded meat dishes are enjoyed in many parts of the world: South American milanesa, Central European schnitzel and decadent chicken Kiev. In Japan, appetites are similarly sated by tonkatsu.

A compound of the words “ton” (pork) and “katsu” (short for katsuretsu [cutlet]), this dish is one of many Japanese takes on yōshoku (Western food). The dish initially appeared deep-fried in butter in an 1895 cookbook, and others say that a pōku-katsuretsu (pork cutlet) served with shredded cabbage popped up on the menu of Ginza restaurant Rengatei four years later — where it remains to this day.

Farther north, in Kanda, is Ponchiken, the restaurant that is credited with serving the first actual tonkatsu in 1929. Tokyo’s shitamachi (downtown) area witnessed a boom in places that served tonkatsu around the 1930s, remnants of which can still be found in districts like Jimbocho. The popularity of the dish is now widespread, from Michelin-recognized restaurants nestled in the capital’s downtown to the chain restaurants of the suburbs — the first of which, Wako, launched in 1958 and has since expanded overseas.