I recently posted about Korean Fried Chicken and in the comments Mr Noodles suggested I needed to make some Japanese Karaage for the blog. Not wanting to miss out on any excuse to fry some chicken here it is, I think it will be the first in a few fried chickens, adding to the Chicken 65, Southern Fried and Korean Fried Chicken that are already on here to make a complete(ish) guide to the Fried Chickens of this world. Feel free to suggest some more.
I've already stated that it is the coating that makes fried chicken and the karaage method calls on a starch for this purpose. Cornflour (or cornstarch as it's known in a lot of places) gives a coating that is harder and more durable than wheat flour or batter - knobbly and lumpy and keeping its crunch for a long time.
In karaage, before coating the chicken takes a reasonably short marinade in sake, soy, ginger juice and sesame oil. The bath is short so the salt in the soy doesn't toughen the meat but it's long enough to impart its flavour on the smallish morsels. For health purposes you can use breast if you want (but it's not very forgiving and turns dry rapidly) or you can omit the skin if you do choose thighs. This is deep-fried food though, so forget trying to be healthy and leave the skin on, it will crisp up delightfully, giving another layer of texture between the crunch of cornflour and the juicy thigh meat underneath.
Karaage (Kara-Age) Recipe
A good snack for 3-4 people
7-8 Chicken Thighs with skin, or without if you must
3 TB Japanese/light soy
3 TB sake
Few splashes of sesame oil
Cornflour to coat
If the thighs still have their bones in take them out, they're handy for making a chicken stock. Cut each thigh into medium chunks, maybe 4-6 per thigh depending on its size.
Roughly chop the ginger and then blend in a mini-blender with the soy, sake and sesame oil. Strain the marinade through muslin to remove all the ginger fibres then marinate the chicken in it for 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken into a sieve, shaking to remove excess marinade, then dump into a bowl with a couple of handfuls of cornflour, coating well.
Heat oil to 180C and fry the chicken, in batches so the oil stays hot, until it floats - around 3 minutes.
With the oil still at 180C add the chicken back and fry till golden, this time around 2.5 minutes. For this second fry I'm happy to put the chicken in all together as it is still hot from the first fry so doesn't bring the temp of the oil down like cold chicken does.
We ate this dry, but it would happily take mayonnaise, chili sauce or Japanese katsu sauce (or a squeeze of lemon or some ponzu) as a dip.