Japanese Delicacy (XVI): Karaage
Karaage is a popular Japanese dish that consists of deep-fried chicken pieces coated in a crispy, flavorful batter. It is typically made by marinating bite-sized pieces of chicken in a mixture of seasonings. The chicken is then coated in a flour or potato starch-based batter and deep fried until golden brown.
What is Karaage?
Karaage is a popular Japanese dish that consists of bite-sized pieces of chicken, meat or vegetables, marinated in soy sauce, sake, ginger, garlic and other seasonings. The marinated chicken or other protein used in karaage has a distinct umami taste, which is enhanced by the combination of seasonings. The marinated pieces are then coated in flour or a batter with a potato starch base and deep fried until golden brown and crispy. It is known for its bold and savory flavors.
One of the unique aspects of karaage is its double-frying technique. After the initial frying, the chicken is allowed to cool and then refried for a few seconds to create an extra-crispy crust. It is crispy, crunchy, and slightly salty, complementing the juicy and tender pieces of fried chicken.
Karaage is often served as a snack or as a main dish accompanied by rice and vegetables. It can also be enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces, such as mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, or ponzu sauce. While chicken is the most common protein used, other meats such as pork or fish can also be used. Vegetables such as lotus root and sweet potatoes can also be fried using the same technique to create a vegetarian version of karaage.
History of Karaage
The history of karaage can be traced back to the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868), where it was originally made using fish as the main ingredient. During that time, people would use salt and flour to preserve fish and then deep-fry them for a crispy texture. This technique became known as "Tatsuta-age" named after the Tatsuta River located in Nara Prefecture.
Over time, chicken became more readily available, and people began using it instead of fish to make fried dishes. The word "karaage" itself first appeared in the early 20th century, and since then, it has become synonymous with deep-fried chicken in Japan. During World War II, karaage gained popularity due to its affordability and ease of preparation. It was also a great source of protein during a time when food was scarce.
After the war, karaage continued to gain popularity, especially in the Kansai region of Japan, where it is still enjoyed today. In recent years, karaage has become a popular dish around the world, with many Japanese restaurants and fast-food chains serving their own version of the dish.
How to Cook Karaage
Here's a simple recipe for making karaage at home:
500g boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sake, garlic, ginger, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and mix until fully coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard any excess liquid.
Place the potato starch or cornstarch in a separate bowl and lightly coat each piece of chicken.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot or fryer to 350°F (180°C).
Fry the chicken in batches for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon or tongs and place on a wire rack to drain any excess oil.
Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.
Make sure the chicken is dry before coating it in potato starch or cornstarch to ensure a crispy crust.
Double-frying the chicken will help make it extra crispy. After the initial frying, let the chicken cool for a few minutes before frying it again for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.
To make vegetarian karaage, substitute the chicken with vegetables such as sweet potatoes or lotus root.