Mom’s Home Cooked 唐揚げ (Karaage): Japanese Fried Chicken

Japanese Fried Chicken (karaage) is one of the nation’s most celebrated dishes, found in restaurants, markets, and convenience stores all over the country.

Karaage fanatics will say that this is the best fried chicken in the world, and their love for the dish most likely started right at home, prepared by mom. Below, we’ll dive into why this crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside, bite-sized fried chicken is the ultimate comfort food and how to prepare this dish right in your own kitchen.

Karaage’s History

Karaage (pronounced kara-ah-gay) historically refers to any dish that is coated in potato starch and deep-fried without seasoning. Because karaage refers to the method of preparing a fried dish, it can also refer to fried fish and vegetables. However, it is most commonly made with chicken- specifically boneless chicken thighs.

The word “karaage” translates to “Chinese Fried,” so it is believed this method was learned from the Chinese around 300 years ago and then adapted to Japanese cuisine. However, the dish really took off when it was popularized in the 1920s after WWII, when chicken was scarce.

Tatsutaage is a very similar dish that is used interchangeably with Karaage. Technically, what we know as Japanese fried chicken is in fact Tatsutaage. Why? Karaage refers to food only coated in starch and fried, while Tatsutaage refers to food being marinated, coated in starch, and fried. While all Karaage is Tatsutaage, not all Tatsutaage is Karaage. Tatsutaage is strictly meant to be made with soy sauce, while Karaage can be made with a variety of ingredients.

Tips and Tricks

Karaage is uniquely Japanese because it is marinated in soy sauce, sake and ginger. After the sauce sets, the chicken is coated with potato starch and fried until golden brown and crispy. To make the most flavorful karaage at home, traditionally or with your own twist, follow the tips and tricks below:

Chicken

  • Use fresh chicken over frozen
  • Keep the chicken skin on for a more crunchy texture
  • Cut the chicken into smaller pieces for crispier chicken, slightly larger for juicier chicken
  • Poke holes in the chicken with a fork for extra crispiness

Marinade

  • Marinate for at least 20 minutes
  • Add garlic for extra flavor and kick
  • No Recipes likes to marinate in salt brine, curry powder, chili powder, or even fish sauce
  • Just One Cookbook also suggests marinating in sesame oil, mirin, oyster sauce, egg yolk, or Japanese mayonnaise

Coating

  • For the starch, some will use a 50:50 ratio of potato starch and rice flour, but The Chopstick Chronicles swears that 100% potato starch results in a crispier chicken
  • You can also use flour or corn starch
  • For convenience, you can also use ready-made fry mixes sold at your local market

Frying

  • You can fry in an electric deep fryer or a pan
  • Fry twice for extra crispiness, fry once for extra juiciness. If frying twice, fry the first time at a lower temperature and then fry at a higher temperature the second time to lock in crispiness
  • Expert fryers will be able to know when the chicken is ready by looking at the bubble sizes, but it is recommended to use a thermometer to read the heat to know when it is ready (160 °F internal temp)

Enjoy

  • Enjoy with a generous squeeze of lemon and a side salad or rice if you’re preparing a bento box
  • A popular dipping sauce is Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • An extra perk is that it is delicious served hot and cold

From the Zojirushi Kitchen: Are you ready to make your own karaage? Here is our recipe with our Zojirushi twist. We add dark sesame oil and suggest you marinate the chicken in a plastic bag to lock in all of the flavor.

Want to learn about another karaage variation? Last year, in our B-kyu Gurume series, we explored Tebasaki Karaage from Nagoya. Take a look at that piece on our blog to learn more about a different variation on this fan-favorite dish – that’s more like a Japanese style of chicken wings instead of fried chicken.

How did your karaage come out? Do you have any special recipes or tips to share with us? Let us know on social media by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

B-kyu Gurume: Tebasaki Karaage from Nagoya

Nagoya is famous for many types of street foods, including hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice) and various udon and flat noodles, as well as a delicious fried chicken dish called Tebasaki Karaage.

If you’re familiar with Japanese dishes, you might be familiar with a version of karaage that is bite-sized pieces of marinated chicken. Tebasaki karaage however, uses the whole chicken wing, bone and all, and each piece is deep-fried before a sweet, sticky glaze finishes off the dish. Tebasaki translates to “wingtips”, which refers to the cut and the name of the dish. If you love chicken wings, this Japanese style of the famous dish satisfies that same meaty craving.

The dish is said to have originated in the 1960’s at the restaurant bar “Furaibo” when there was a shortage of the usual karaage meat, and wings were offered instead. Believe it or not, the wings were originally discarded as livestock feed, but this happy accident turned the dish into a fan-favorite at many eateries across Nagoya, as well as all over Japan.

Each wing is deep fried without batter and coated in a sweet and salty sauce. Even though the dish is not breaded and has no formal crust, the wings are usually double dipped into the fryer and the skin fries to a crisp. Once coated, it is finished with spices and sesame seeds resulting in a crispy and juicy dish.  Sounds delicious right?

The sauce is similar to a teriyaki sauce, but flavored with ginger and garlic. This mixture is simmered until it is rich and sticky to coat the deep-fried chicken. It is recommended to dip the chicken wings as soon as they are removed from the hot oil. This method allows the sauce to caramelize without making the wing soggy.

The wings retain their crisp for a half hour, and many people will fry the chicken once and wait for the second deep-fry until they are closer to eating the meal. Serve with a cold beer, cabbage leaves, veggies, cucumbers, or celery sticks.

If you’re looking to make this dish at home, check out this video from No Recipes:

Where You Can Find Tebasaki Karaage

  • Furaibo: considered to be the creators of this dish
  • Torikai Sohonke Meieki Minami Branch: This branch uses one of the top kinds of chicken in Japan and a unique red wine-based sauce.
  • Sekai no Yamachan: Known for being heavily seasoned and for their large portions

Let us know if you try any of these restaurants or make this dish at home by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!