Cooking gyutan (cow tongue) in Japan traces it origins to the 1940s in the city of Sendai when a local restauranteur decided to specialize in thinly sliced grilled beef tongue.
If you Google gyutan, you will see that the thin slices of tongue are grilled for just a minute or two. Personally, I have always been intrigued at how a tough cut of meat can be eaten after such a short cooking time.
I’ve been eating beef tongue since I was a child and I’ve witnessed such lengthy and laborious preparations which have elevated this organ meat into a party dish. There was just so much work involved. The skin had to be rubbed several times with a mixture of salt and vinegar to remove the sliminess. Then, there were long hours of simmering which, depending on the age of the animal, could be anywhere from six to eight hours. The tongue was cooled before the skin could be peeled off and only then could the meat be seasoned and mixed with other ingredients.
So, when I learned that, in Japan, beef tongue was cooked for a mere minute or so on the grill, I wondered what the texture could be like. Chewy, no doubt. But still tender enough to eat comfortably? I didn’t know. I didn’t come across any yakiniku restaurant or izakaya with gyutan on the menu while in Japan. I have read though that there are special cutting techniques involved in preparing gyutan.
Back here at home, we decided to try a dish that I missed enjoying in Japan but which I intend to search for more diligently when I go back there later this year.
Unlike the thinly-sliced grilled gyutan that originated in Sendai, cooking gyutan katsu involves more familiar cooking techniques. It requires that the beef tongue be cooked whole before it is sliced, coated in panko and deep fried. The long and slow cooking to tenderize the tongue is how we’ve been cooking tongue for as long as we have been cooking tongue. The breading and frying part is just like cooking tonkatsu.
My daughter, Alex, did the cooking.
- 1 beef tongue 800 grams to 1 kilogram in weight
- rock salt
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) you may need more
- cooking oil for frying
- Rinse the beef tongue several times. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Rub the surface generously with rock salt to remove any sliminess. Rinse and repeat the procedure until the tongue skin no longer feels slimy.
- Place the tongue in the slow cooker and cover with water. Add about two tablespoons salt.
- Set the cooker to LOW and cook the tongue for 10 hours.
- Remove the tongue from the slow cooker and cool on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for several hours (to make slicing easier and cleaner).
- Take the tongue from the fridge and peel off the skin. If the tongue has been cooked correctly, the skin should come off easily.
- Cut the tongue into slices anywhere from half an inch to an inch. It depends on how thick you pant your gyutan katsu. Take the best four pieces. Wrap and refrigerate the rest for another dish.
- Dump the flour in a shallow bowl. Beat the egg in a second shallow bowl. Spread the panko in a third shallow bowl.
- Dredge each slice of tongue in flour; shake off the excess.
- Dip each floured tongue slice in egg.
- Coat the tongue with panko.
- Heat enough cooking oil in a pan to reach a depth of at least two inches. The temperature you're looking for is around 145F.
- Drop the panko coated tongue slices into the hot oil. If your frying pan is rather small, do the frying in batches so that the tongue slices don't touch one another during frying. Cook until the panko turns crisp and golden. Flip to brown the opposite side.
- Serve your gyutan katsu at once (optionally, drizzled with tonkatsu sauce).