Chicken karaage is the Japanese version of fried chicken that is insanely delicious- light, crisp, full of flavor and moist. It has a universal flavor which is not too exotic, yet is very different from fried chicken in the US, China, and Indonesia. It is great as a main dish, or as an appetizer with drinks, as an item in the bento box, perfect for takeaway sets or picnics. It is usually served with lemon juice or a mayonnaise.
Chicken karaage was adapted from the Chinese cuisine and has assimilated into the Japanese culinary culture. Preparation starts with marinating the bite-sized boneless pieces of chicken thigh meat, lightly coated with potato starch and deep fried until golden brown. Preparation is similar to another crowd pleaser Japanese food- tempura.
Karaage is easy to make at home. All the ingredients are easy to find in the markets. It only takes fifteen minutes (excluding marination time) to prepare.
Chicken thigh meat is normally used to make karaage as it is more flavorsome and juicier than breast meat. You can ask the butcher to debone the chicken for you to save you time and effort in the kitchen.
Recipe for Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
- 500g of boneless chicken thighs, skin-on, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
- 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
- 1 clove of chopped garlic
- 4 teaspoons (20ml) of Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) of sake
- 1 teaspoon (5g) of sugar
- Equal portion of potato starch and wheat flour for coating
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Lemon wedges to garnish
- Add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sake in a bowl.
- Score the skinless side of the chicken in a crosshatch pattern. Be careful not to cut through the meat.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces of 2.5 cm length, leaving the skin on it for extra crispiness.
- Marinate with the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
- Drain off any excess liquid from the chicken. Dredge the chicken meat into the potato starch and wheat flour combination.
- Leave them aside for a minute, then dip them in the flour once more.
- Pour at least 1.5-inch layer of vegetable oil into a heavy bottomed pot or wok and heat the oil up to up 360 °F (180 °C).
- Deep fried the chicken until cooked through and turns golden brown about 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally with chopsticks to avoid the chicken pieces sticking together.
- Drain the chicken pieces on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Serve with lemon wedges.
Tips on how to prepare the perfect karaage
- Although chicken breast can be used for this recipe, thighs have more flavor and are generally more moist.
- Karaage tastes just as good when it is cold. It is perfect for lunch boxes or at a summer picnic.
- The marinade clinging to the chicken will help the starch adhere to the meat.
- Dredge each one for the second time in the flour to get an even and sufficient coating.
- Scoring the chicken thighs enables better absorption of the marinade and more even cooking.
- Double dredging of flour makes the chicken extra crispy.
- Chicken karaage can be frozen uncooked. Store the marinated chicken in a freezer bag or an airtight plastic container. When you want to deep-fry the karaage, defrost the chicken in the fridge and continue to deep fry.
- Chicken thighs have a larger margin of tolerance to heat than chicken breasts, which are prone to dryness, so you can fry them a little longer until they're extra golden brown and crispy.
- If you do not serve them immediately after deep-frying, you can fry the chicken a second time for a minute to regain crispiness.
Watch how to cook chicken karaage here (1.30 min):
Which is the best coating for karaage- potato starch, cornflour, or wheat flour?
Original Japanese karaage is deep-fried by coating the chicken with potato starch or a mix of potato and wheat flour. The potato starch creates a lasting layer of crispy coating around the karaage which makes it perfect for bento lunch even after it becomes cold.
Cornflour is a good alternative to potato starch where potato starch is hard to get. Cooks have developed recipes with a various combination of potato starch, corn flour and wheat flour for karaage recipes. These flours are used by native Japanese too all produce good results, albeit results may vary in texture and the degree of crispiness.
The following is a simple taste test of three combinations for the coating of karaage- potato starch, cornflour and a mix of potato starch and wheat flour to find out which one I prefer. The appearance and color of all combinations are identical after deep-frying with the same pot of oil, temperature and duration.
Cornflour alone has a denser and crunchy texture compared to the combination of wheat and cornflour after cooling for 15 minutes.
Karaage with both potato flour and potato / wheat flour combination has a slight feeling of raw flour to bite, which I prefer as it is a nice feeling in the mouth.
The coating of potato and corn flour without the wheat flour is denser, whereas the combination of potato starch has the lightest and crispy crust.
My choice: Potato starch / wheat flour combination is the best. I like the slightly floury feeling to bite and the light and crispy crust compared to corn flour alone.
And that is why I use the combination of potato starch and wheat flour in my recipe. The difference is marginal. You can use any of the combinations to achieve the result mentioned above.
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