Tuesday, April 11, 2006

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.


Kirk said...

Yummm Tori Karaage - one of my favorites. I've stopped making them at home since I could eat like 2-3lbs of that stuff in one sitting. Congrads on scoring a nice price to Japan - i'll really look forward to your posts!

elmomonster said...

Japan! You lucky bastard.

Karaage is a staple dish that I make...and both you and Kirk are right, they are damned addictive.

I got my recipe from a Japanese girl (named Yukari) studying at some culinary institute in Japan who posts often at the Home Cooking section of Chowhound. I'll have to try your recipe out the next time I make it - the addition of garlic is very intriguing.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Kirk/Elmo, I rarely eat fried chicken and this is my one time tasting of the year. I feel really guilty after eating the deepfried tumors (sorry for the gross analogy). Kirk when's the last time you went to Japan? Anything you recommend me looking for, food that is?

Elmo, i remember seeing your posting. Your chicken sounds solid as well. I was worried that averaging out 4 different types of recipes might alter the true taste of this dish, but after looking the Japanese culinary student's posting, I'm at peace haha.

I only added garlic b/c i think garlic/ginger go very well together. I don't know how to get ginger juice. I just grate the ginger on a microplane and toss it in. I don't think you can ever have too much ginger. I ran out of sake so i threw in Chinese Shao Xing rice wine. I also read on the net that this Japanese person also used the Chinese ricewine. There's gotta be hundreds of variations to this dish. I think I'm gonna try adding sesame seeds to the batter and maybe some yuzu citrus juice to the marinade.

BoLA said...

Mmm...I love chicken karaage too! My favorite appetizer! And I'm SO jealous that you guys are going to Japan!!! Boo to not even getting an invite. :( Anyhow, thinking of Musha while I figure out what to scrounge for lunch today. muhaha!

Daily Gluttony said...

Dude, congrats on the great deal to Japan--I'm so jealous!!!

Crap, my cholesterol's going to go sky high--I gotta go make some chicken karaage soon.

Colleen Cuisine said...

Japan is awesome - you are going to have such a great time.
I went when I was in high school and it changed my whole outlook on life.

I'm sure you'll be blogging from there, and I greatly look forward to it!

rick james said...

dude, you did a good job on the karage... most places use too much batter..

say hello to Michiba for me....

Foodie Universe said...

I'm jealous--I hope to visit Tokyo in the next couple of years. I hope you'll do a post about your restaurant finds over there!

Passionate Eater said...

Dang, that is a great deal to go to Japan. You'll have to promise to bring back those weird-foodie things, like the plastic food props, the soup fan that is attached to the chopsticks, and the chopsticks that can be filled with soy sauce! One of my friends went to Japan not knowing a word of Japanese, and he used the plastic food props to order food. He carried a whole bunch of the props in his bag everyday.

Kirk said...

EDBM - Believe it or not, I've never been to Japan - what a lousy Sansei I am! No love for the motherland and all that.....

For ginger juice - I use a garlic press, which I never use for garlic - but it works well for getting ginger juice without the fibers....

Yuzu said...

Oh damn, that looks so good. Karaage is one of my favorite cooked things to order at Japanese restaurants. When you go to Japan, I'm sure you'll be taking photos of the great Engrish you come across, huh?

Dude, can you bring me back something Hello Kitty? ^___^ Haha, just joking. But please get me a cutesy bento box with a beautiful Engrish phrase on it. I am bento-crazy right now, in case my blog hasn't given that away.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Bola, I found out about the trip from everyone else pretty late. I wasn't going to go until I heard about the price. Sorry bola!

DG, get your sous chef to help you on these. He can make sure that they don't get burnt haha. 2 more weeks from today, musha's!!!

Colleen, I know I'll have a blast in Japan. I just hope I remember how to speak English when I come back. When I was in HK last year, I didn't want to come back home. Why? All because of the street food.

DCCF, thanks for the info on the Iron Chef restaurants. It'd be a great experience eating there.

FU, I'll try my best to send day to day updates on my culinary mission.

Kirk, I'm surprised you haven't been to the Motherland. Actually I know a lot of ppl who haven't.

Yuzu, I am going to be all-over the erroneous grammar on Japanese products/signs. I'll look for a Bento Box.

Jeni said...

Karaage and fresh yuzu is the bomb!

Mark Kawayoshi said...

Sounds just like my man AB...

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. And that's not good eats.

k said...

Oh crap Karaage! I haven't had that in ages...hm, maybe that'll be my dinner. ;)

Beth - Zen Foodism said...

I am so JEALOUS! I spent almost 2 weeks in Japan this time last year and I keep hearing about people who are going there soon and it breaks my heart. My whole goal in life is to get back to Japan someday.

You're going to LOVE IT!

s'kat said...

Dude. I haven't been to the far east, but man, what a great opportunity. Lookin' forward to your report on other climes, and such.

Um, us folk here in Newport News will eat some Sweet'n'Sour chicken or something in honour of your trip.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Jeni, i've never had fresh yuzu. can i get that at a Japanese market? I only have the yuzu/soy sauce bottle - pricey, almost $9.

Mark, thanks "PB". I know I just realized that I sound like Alton Brown. That's just the way I do the recipe breakdown haha.

Hi Keri, like MacDonald's McNuggets, I only allow myself to eat 6-7 pieces. Nothing more or I'll lose my interest in the dish forever.

Hi Beth, thanks for stopping by. I couldn't refuse a $499 offer. A LA->NY flight is almost $400 itself. Check the site for more Japanese food updates and of course, my postings on Japan.

Hi S'Kat, thanks for the tribute haha.

Passionate Eater said...

I never told you (in my earlier comment on this post), that I love the way the tofu looks there. Looks incredible, and I am impressed that you managed to spread the seaweed thinly on the top of the tofu, without scattering those flakes in the soy sauce moat around the tofu. Happy Easter!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Haha PE, you're funny. I added way too much soy sauce and sesame oil. It indeed looks like King Richard's Castle with a brown-colored moat. Maybe the sauce destroys the whole purpose of it being a healthy dish. = (

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