“No izakaya menu or Japanese cooking repertoire is complete without a solid kara-age recipe,” wrote Tim Anderson in his 2016 cookbook Nanban: Japanese Soul Food ($23). The cookbook is an education in food common to the izakaya, an informal Japanese gastropub. It’s filled with simple — and complex — recipes, plus a 101-level course in Japanese ingredients. If you can’t find certain ingredients at your local grocery store, Anderson explains what can work as a substitute.
Kara-age (pronounced “kah-rah-ah-gay”) is Japanese fried chicken, and Anderson’s recipe is in the Oita style, which he said is spicier and more garlicky than other kara-ages. When making, Anderson offers a pro tip: only use the thigh, the juiciest part of the bird.
Kara-age (Japanese Fried Chicken)
Serves 2 to 4
2 cloves garlic
1/4 oz (5g) fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp hot chili powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sake (or mirin)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp yuzu juice
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 boneless chicken thighs
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
10 tbsp (100g) potato flour (or rice flour, or cornstarch)
1/4 lime or lemon per serving
soy sauce or mayonnaise (optional)
1. Grate the garlic, shallot and ginger. Combine with the chili powder, pepper, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, yuzu juice and vinegar in a bowl.
2. Lay the chicken thighs out flat and cut them into quarters. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, pour the marinade over them and refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight.
3. Heat the vegetable oil to 325°F in a large, heavy saucepan. Drain the chicken pieces in a sieve, then dredge each piece in the potato flour, laying them out in a single layer on a plate after dredging.
4. Let them sit for a little while, then dredge the pieces again, shaking off the excess potato flour. The double dredging is to make sure all the moisture on the surface of the chicken is absorbed and covered, resulting in a crisper, less greasy chicken.
5. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels. Fry the chicken pieces in batches for about five minutes, or until deeply browned, then drain on the paper towels.
6. Serve with a wedge of lime or lemon, and perhaps some soy sauce or mayonnaise.