I have a love-hate relationship with fried chicken. I love to eat it, but hate to make it, probably because I hadn’t nailed down a recipe for traditional fried chicken that I thought was worthy of the time and effort.
It’s a dish that sounds easy. Soak chicken in buttermilk, toss it in seasoned flour and fry. No problem. Except I had a problem. Mine always turned out crisp at first, but would turn soggy and greasy after sitting for a bit. Soggy and greasy was not my target.
Then I started seeing recipes for karaage, Japanese fried chicken bites, all over the internet, and, since I’m never one to argue with the zeitgeist, I gave it a try, and finally found the fried chicken of my dreams.
Of course, the recipe is completely different from my standard fried chicken.
To begin with, there are no bones. I know this is highly controversial, but I don’t love to eat fried chicken on the bone. In this recipe, boneless, skin-on chicken thighs are cut into bite-sized pieces, for easy eating. Problem solved.
If you can’t find boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, no worries. It’s easy to cut the chicken off the bone yourself or ask your butcher to do it for you. Try to resist the urge to use skinless chicken thighs, though, as the skin gives it an irresistible crunch and added flavor.
The cut-up chicken thighs are marinated in soy sauce, sake, ginger and garlic. Unlike my buttermilk marinade for traditional fried chicken, which takes an overnight soak, this marinade is a more concentrated powerhouse of flavor and only takes an hour to permeate the meat.
The chicken is then tossed in potato starch and fried twice. This may seem unusual, but these two steps are what give this chicken extra crunchiness, whether you serve it right away, piping hot out of the oil, or later, at room temperature.
Potato starch is the standard coating for karaage, and I had no trouble finding it in my local grocery stores, both in the organic flour section of the baking aisle and in the kosher food section. Cornstarch is a substitute, though the chicken won’t get as crunchy.
Anyone who has ventured into the homemade French fry arena will recognize the twice-fried technique. The first fry, at a lower temperature, is meant to cook the inside of the French fry, without over-browning it. The second fry, at a higher temperature, is meant to get the outside as crispy as possible.
As it happens, what’s good for the French fry is also good for this chicken, as frying it twice results in a juicy, flavorful interior and addictively crunchy exterior.
When served as an appetizer, I like to include lemon wedges on the side. For a main course, I’ll tuck the chicken bites into lettuce cups with cucumber slices, for a lovely hot-cold contrast, and serve with a mound of cooked rice on the side.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.
Japanese-Style Fried Chicken (Karaage)
Note: Potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill is one brand) can be found in most grocery stores, but if necessary, cornstarch can be substituted. Frying the chicken twice only takes a few extra minutes, but results in an ultra-crispy chicken. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/4 c. soy sauce
• 2 tbsp. dry sake or dry sherry
• 2 tsp. sugar
• 2 tsp. grated ginger root
• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 4 skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 to 2 lb.), deboned, cut into 2-in. chunks
• Canola or peanut oil, for frying
• 3/4 cup potato starch (see Note)
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• Lemon wedges, for serving
In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, sake, sugar, ginger and garlic. Toss chicken pieces in marinade to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches of oil. Heat oil to 325 degrees.
While the oil heats, in a bowl, combine potato starch, salt and pepper. Remove 3 or 4 pieces of chicken from the marinade and toss in the potato starch.
Shake off excess potato starch and fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.
When all the chicken has been fried once, increase the oil’s temperature to 375 degrees. Fry chicken pieces a second time, until the crust is deep golden brown, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with a lemon wedge, and lettuce and cucumber slices and rice, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving:
Fat 27 g
Sodium 410 mg
Carbohydrates 16 g
Saturated fat 5 g
Added sugars 1 g
Protein 29 g
Cholesterol 90 mg
Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 4 medium-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.