Eat Drink Style On the Road to Japan #2: Chicken Karaage and Cold Tofu

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last two weeks, you’ll notice my sudden trend for all things Japanese. Why? I got a killer deal on American Airlines for $499! I’ll be going to Tokyo and Osaka for the first time and I couldn’t be more stoked. To prepare myself for my trip at the end of this month, I decided to whet my appetite by cooking all things Japanese. A few days ago, I attempted to remake a favorite at Musha’s over in Torrance. Tonight, I made the Japanese chicken McNuggeturu: Chicken Karaage. This heavenly delight is most commonly served at Izakaya-style restaurants. An ‘izakaya’, as defined by Wikipedia is a Japanese bar that was originally catered to businessmen who wanted to drink and eat after work. We all know that as ‘happy hour’. They typically serve skewered food that’s grilled over a charcoal pit. Yakitori, grilled chicken + extraneous parts, is most commonly served in ‘izakayas’.

Anyway, I checked out a few recipes on the eGullet forums and wanted to try my hand at this. This came out sooooo good. I had to stop myself from eating the whole batch after 6-7 pieces. I was like a monster. Here’s how I made it:

(1) Using chicken leg meat, I chopped them into 2” x 2” pieces. I threw them in a large Ziplock® freezer bag with soy sauce, mirin, Chinese Shao Xing rice wine, grated ginger, chopped garlic, scallions (the Japanese use a leek called ‘negi’ – expensive), sugar and a few drops of sesame oil. I let them make love in the fridge for about an hour, flipping the bag over every 15 minutes.

(2) I then made the batter mixture by mixing a bowl with 50% flour and 50% corn starch. Added salt to season.

(3) I got the pan hot at around 130-140 degrees and added ONE DROPLET of water in it to see if it was hot enough. Be careful with this, you could look like an entirely different person the next day if it splashes on your face. Once ready, I battered the pieces of chicken in the flower/corn starch mixture – shaking off the excess.

(4) I then fried the chicken pieces, flipping them over every few moments, for about 1 minute and took them out. Why? Because if you want to achieve that extra crunchy texture, you have to do the Double Fry. Skip this if you have high cholesterol like me. After about 5 minutes of resting, I threw the chicken back into the oil for a 30 second fry to harden the batter.

(5) Make sure you don’t fry more than 5-6 pieces of chicken in your pan/pot. The more food you add in, the faster the oil temperature will go down. The batter will not be fried quick enough and will crumble. No goohr.

(6) Serve with tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayonnaise or with a simple squeeze of lemon. Serve over chopped cabbage and enjoy. I had to eat a box of tofu just so I wouldn't feel so guilty about the Japanese McNuggeturus. I simply added soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions and katsuoboshi (bonito fish cakes). Light, delicious and devoid of guilt.

Thanks for reading.

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