Karaage, pronounced kah-rah-ah-geh, literally means “Tang fried” (Tang as in the Chinese dynasty), and is an umbrella term for any chicken that's coated in either potato starch or flour and deep-fried. Like Gyoza and Ramen, Karaage is an example of Wafu-Chuka (Chinese-style Japanese) cuisine, whereby dumplings, noodles, or in this case fried chicken, were adapted from the Chinese culinary repertoire and turned into something uniquely Japanese.
The most common type of Karaage is known as Tatsuta-age, which is usually defined by the chicken first being marinated in soy sauce and then coated with potato starch. The name is in reference to the reddish brown color imparted by the soy sauce, which was thought to resemble the color of the Tatsuta River in autumn when the surrounding Japanese maple trees turn the river a similar hue. After being marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, the 2-bite nuggets of chicken are dredged in katakuriko (potato starch) and deep fried until crisp. The katakuriko creates a golden shell around the karaage with a lasting crispness which makes it perfect for packing in a bento lunch. Karaage also makes for a great summer picnic with some onigiri (rice balls).
The recipe below calls for mirin, a type of rice wine, similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol and higher sugar content. Mirin has a sweet flavor, a golden to light amber color and a slightly thick consistency. A little goes a long way. If you can't find mirin, try dry sherry or sweet marsala. Alternatively, you can dissolve a small amount of sugar in a little white wine or sherry.
Katakuriko is a potato starch made from the dried starch component of peeled potatoes. It does not have any potato taste or smell so it does not influence other flavors. Deep-frying with katakuriko makes the chicken crispier. If you can't find katakuriko, try potato or corn starch.
- 1 1/4 pound chicken thighs (boneless, cut into about 1-inch pieces)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 teaspoon ginger juice
- 1 cup Katakuriko (or corn starch; more or less as needed for coating)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (more or less as needed for deep-frying)
- Mix soy sauce, sake, mirin and ginger juice in a large bowl.
- Marinate chicken in the sauce for 30-60 minutes.
- Take out chicken from the sauce and dry lightly with paper towels.
- Preheat oil to about 330 degrees F in a deep pan.
- Lightly coat chicken pieces with katakuriko and deep-fry them until done.
- Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels.