I’ll throw out a blanket statement to which you can react: Japanese cuisine offers some of the best deep-fried foods the culinary world has to offer. Just think of the deliciousness of fried onigiri, katsudon, tori-no-kara-age, agedashi-dofu, tempura. The list goes on. While this recipe is not strictly Japanese, it is very closely based on tori-no-kara-age, and given that there are tons of people of Japanese heritage in Hawaii, it’s no surprise that someone developed this absolutely fantastic dish.
This version is similar to Cook’s Illustrated’s take on the recipe, which is as good as any.
That’s all I have to say about it. Make it. You’ll love it.
What you’ll need for the chicken
- 3-oz piece of ginger, unpeeled, cut into 0.5-inch slices
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup water
- 0.5 cups soy sauce
- 3T packed light-brown sugar
- 1T toasted sesame oil
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and halved crosswise—if they’re huge, cut them into thirds or smaller
- *2.25 cups potato (or corn) starch—that’s a ton of it, you probably won’t need that much
- 2T sesame seeds—I skipped these because I hate them
- 1.5t baking powder
- *3 quarts peanut or vegetable oil—doubt you’ll need even close to this much
*These seem like ridiculously large amounts. I’ll explain in the instructions.
What you’ll need for the optional dipping sauce:
- 0.5 cups seasoned rice vinegar
- 0.25 cups soy sauce
- 0.25 cups lemon juice (about 2 fresh lemons, is using)
- Black pepper
What do do for the dipping sauce:
Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and season with pepper, to taste. Set aside until the chicken is cooked.
What do to for the chicken:
Run the ginger and garlic in small food processor until finely chopped, then transfer to large bowl. You could also just mince both of these ingredients by hand, instead, or just thinly slice them. Add the water, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil, whisking to combine. Add the chicken and submerge it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Alternatively, you could dump all that stuff in a sealable freezer bag and marinate it in there.
When you’re ready to cook, get a big plate and another big plate or a platter ready. Line the big plate or platter with paper towels and put a wire rack over it.
Whisk the potato starch, sesame seeds, baking powder, 1t salt, and 1t black pepper together in large bowl. Use only 1 cup of starch to start, and add more if you need. 2.25 cups is a lot of wasted potato starch.
Working with a piece of chicken at a time, remove it from the marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip back in bowl. Dredge the chicken into the potato starch mixture, pressing to adhere. Gently shake off excess and transfer chicken to a large plate. When done with all the chicken, cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. I skipped this step, because it was time to get cooking. Besides, one wouldn’t do that with regular tori-no-kara-age, upon which this dish is closely based.
Add about 2-3 inches of peanut or other neutral oil to a saucepan, wok, or whatever you deep-fry in. I really doubt you’ll need the 3 quarts that are called for.
Heat the oil to 375 degrees, and carefully add enough pieces of chicken so they don’t touch. If they stick together, use cooking chopsticks or heatproof tongs to separate them. Keep an eye on the oil temp, too. If it gets too low, turn up the heat. Low-heat frying leads to greasy food. Cook the chicken until golden-brown. Remove the done chicken a piece at a time to the plate with the wire rack. Repeat until all the chicken is done.
Serve with dipping sauce. Enjoy!