When I was growing up, menchi katsu were not something that my mother made at home. These deep-fried patties of minced meat and vegetables were sold premade and ready to heat up by the local butcher, and on days when my mother was very busy, she would send me to buy some. If I remember correctly, menchi katsu cost twice as much as korokke (potato croquettes), so it was a special treat.

These days, menchi katsu have been become popular as a "B-class gourmet" item — something that is inexpensive but tasty. People in Tokyo even line up for hours for a chance to buy one from popular menchi katsu places like Asakusa Menchi.

Menchi katsu were invented at Rengatei, a yōshoku (Western-style Japanese food) restaurant that has been in business in Tokyo’s Ginza district since 1895. Four years after opening, the chefs came up with a minced meat version of tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet). Since many of Rengatei’s customers were from other countries, the owner wanted a name for this new dish that anyone could understand. The story goes that he asked someone how to say "hikiniku" in English, and when he was told that it was “minced meat,” he allegedly misheard it as "menchi meat."