Let’s Talk Food: Japanese fried chicken or karaage

“Karaage” is a Japanese fried chicken, created by a Toyoken restaurant in Beppu, Japan. You can find karaage chicken at convenience stores in Japan, such as 7-11, FamilyMart, and Lawson.

It is also a popular item in izakayas and many restaurants.

Before the first Europeans on Japanese soil, Portuguese missionaries and merchants, came to Kagoshima Prefecture south of Kyushu in 1543, the Japanese did not fry their food in oil. It was the Portuguese who taught the Japanese how to fry food and bake bread. During religious seasons like Lent, they would fry fish to forgo eating meat.

There is a karaage festival in Oita, which takes place in September, with over 60 different shops serving their unique versions of this wonderful dish. Why in Oita, you ask? The people of Oita are renowned for eating more chicken meat than any other prefecture in Japan and their two most popular ways of preparing chicken are toriten and karaage. Toriten is tempura chicken, originally from Oita Prefecture, mixes karaage and tempura to make this dish. The chicken is marinated as in karaage, then dipped in a tempura batter instead of potato or cornstarch. Toriten is usually a side dish or garnish on udon, or toriten udon. It is usually served with a salad with a citrus / shoyu sauce and is an inexpensive but filling meal.

The karaage is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, ginger then soaked in egg and potato starch and fried.

Several prefectures in Japan claim to do the best karaage.

In Miyazaki Prefecture, karaage is called nanban, which originated in China and means “barbarians of the south,” is a boneless and deep-fried karaage, served with a white tartar sauce on top.

In Nagano, fried chicken is called sanzoku-yaku.

In Hokkaido, it is called zangi, imabari or sen-sangi.

In Niigata, the fried chicken is hanba age.

In Nagoya, in the city of Nakatsu, karaage tebasaki are chicken wings fried in a spicy sauce.

Okinawa’s version of karaage is called gurukun no kara-age, but gurukun is banana fish, fried whole and served with lemon.

Chicken karaage

For 2 people as a starter or as a main course

Peel and grate:

1 inch of fresh ginger

Place in a large bowl, add:

1 clove of garlic, pressed

2 tablespoons of sake

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

Cut each chicken thigh with the skin into 5 to 6 bite-size pieces:

1 pound boneless, skin-on chicken thighs

Season with:

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, let stand in the marinade for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix and whisk well:

4 tablespoons of potato starch or cornstarch

1 tablespoon of rice flour

In a frying pan, add 1-1 / 2 to 2 inches:

Neutral cooking oil like canola or vegetable oil

When the oil is hot, drain the chicken from the marinade and coat each with a mixture of potato starch or cornstarch and rice flour.

When the oil reaches 340 degrees, fry the chicken for 90 seconds or until lightly browned. Work with a few parts at a time, so that the temperature of the oil does not drop. Transfer the chicken to a grill and drain off excess oil.

After all the chicken has been fried, increase the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees and fry the chicken for the second time for 45 seconds or until crispy and golden. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined plate.

Serve immediately with:

lemon wedges



Shichimi togarashi (seven Japanese spices) for a spicy kick

Mayonnaise, optional for dipping

Chicken Tempura or Toriten

For 2 people

Mash with a meat tenderizer for even and faster cooking:

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

Cut the chicken into strips about 3/4 inch wide and 3 inches long.

Season the chicken pieces with:

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of sake

2 teaspoons of soy sauce

Grate and add to the marinade:

1 nut of fresh ginger


1 clove of garlic

Rub the chicken with the seasonings.

Place a medium bowl over a large bowl with ice water. Add and whisk well:

1 large egg

Using a fine strainer, sift into the bowl with the egg:

1/3 cup cake flour

1/3 cup potato or cornstarch

Gradually add:

1/3 cup water

Mix everything until it is just enough to combine but do not over mix

Add the chicken pieces and coat them well with the dough.

Using a tempura pan, heat to 350 degrees:

Vegetable or canola oil in a 1-1 / 2 to 2 inch saucepan

Add 2-3 pieces of chicken breaded in hot oil.

Fry each batch until crisp on the court, about 4 minutes total, 2 minutes per side. Scoop up the tempura crumbs to keep the oil clean.

Serve with shredded cabbage and ponzu sauce or place a few pieces on the udon for the toriten udon.

Nanban Chicken

For 2 people

Follow the recipe for making karaage, but the difference to making nanbam is this sauce and the tartar sauce.

Nanban Sauce:

Boil together in a small saucepan:

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

2 tablespoons of sugar

Add and turn off the heat, otherwise the acidity of the vinegar will evaporate:

2 tablespoons of Japanese rice vinegar


1 bird’s eye chili called Takanotsume or a dash of Shichimi togarashi

Briefly dip the fried chicken in the nanban sauce before serving, then drizzle with the tartar sauce:

Japanese tartar sauce:

Boil until hard cooking, 10 minutes:

2 large eggs

While the eggs are cooking, finely chop and set aside:

1/4 round onion

2 young gherkins

2 shiso leaves

Squeeze and zest a lemon:

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

Place the eggs in ice water, peel them, mash them with a fork. Add the chopped onion, pickles and shiso leaves.

Add the lemon juice, zest and:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Drizzle over fried chicken and serve.

Email Audrey Wilson at [email protected]

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