Learn how to make the ultimate authentic and crispy Japanese karaage fried chicken. Juicy chicken thigh marinated in a fragrant sauce containing ginger and garlic, then lightly coated in starch and fried at two different temperatures for crispy perfection. This is one of my favourite recipes of all time and I can't wait to share it with you.
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This is a very special recipe for me.
Not only is it my family's recipe, but my first ever dream when I was kid was to open my own karaage specialty food stand.
At that time (More than 20 years ago), it sounded like a very strange dream to have, but here now in 21st century, karaage specialty food stands have become the biggest ever in Japan.
Maybe I should have pursued the dream really but you know, I was like 5 at the time (You can call me genius :p).
Karaage is still my favourite dish of all time and I could pretty much eat it everyday, literally.
So what is karaage?
Despite the term "karaage" being used for Japanese style fried chicken, it doesn't technically mean "fried chicken".
Karaage (から揚げ) is actually a cooking term which means to fry without a batter (unlike tempura). Usually the meat is marinated and then coated in flour or starch.
It's simple, but it creates the best fried chicken in the world in my opinion!
Karaage can also be pork, and vegetarian soy meat versions are becoming more popular, but if you go to Japan and see "karaage" written somewhere, it pretty much always means "fried chicken".
I'm sure most people would be tempted to use plain flour for coating karaage, but really, if you want to achieve the lightness, crispiness and authentic texture of true karaage, you should definitely use starch.
There are a few options to choose from:
- Potato starch
- Corn starch
- Rice flour
Each one will yield slightly different results but they all work well. My favourite is potato starch and that's what I use in this recipe, but you can substitute for any of the above.
There are many different ways to cook karaage out there, but my favourite way is shallow frying and this is how karaage is cooked in most Japanese homes.
Use a mild flavoured oil with a high smoke point like vegetable oil, canola or peanut oil for example.
I'm going to share my secret to achieving the crispiest texture without double frying.
- Heat the oil to 160°C (320°F)
- Fry the chicken for 3 mins on each side
- Increase the heat to 190°C (375°F)
- Fry for 1 minute on each side
This technique makes it seriously crispy. It's so good, I also use it when frying "Nagoya Style Chicken Wings", check out the recipe here! The crispiness will have you dancing in your seat!
You can technically make karaage with any part of the chicken, but for the best results I recommend using chicken thigh with the skin on.
Chicken thigh is like, the juiciest and tastiest part of the chicken and it's just perfect for karaage.
Not to mention, if the skin is on it becomes just soooooooo crispy! It's out of this world.
Of course if you want to use this recipe for wings or drumsticks, it's good. (Just don't forget to increase the cooking time for thicker meat.) But when it comes to using chicken breast, of course you can still do it, but don't expect it to be at the same level as chicken thigh in terms of juiciness and crispiness.
Different Flavours of Karaage
The most common flavours are:
- Salt base
- Soy sauce base
But these days, there are many other flavour twists. You can find things like:
- Spicy chilli
You can create different flavours by using different marinades or adding different herbs and spices to the flour.
One thing to note is you don't want your karaage to be overpowered with too much flavour, I actually think simple is better for this dish. You also don't need to marinate any longer that 30 minutes, 30 minutes is pretty much the perfect amount.
Today, I'm going to tell you the most basic way to make authentic karaage with a soy base, if you like fried chicken in general, it's definitely worth a try!
If you make this recipe, there's different ways for you to enjoy it!
- Karaage teishoku set (served with rice, cabbage and miso soup)
- Karaage Onigiri (a rice ball with fried chicken in the centre, usually has sauce)
- Karaage Don (donburi rice bowl topped with karaage, spring onions and mayonnaise)
- Karaage Bento (a lunchbox made with karaage, rice, vegetables etc)
Storing and Reheating
In the unlikely event that there are leftovers, you can freeze karaage put it in the refrigerator and eat within 3-4 days.
If you microwave it, it will lose some crispiness. I usually microwave it to warm up the middle and then put it under the grill to crisp the outside up again. BUT in all honestly, this karaage still tastes great cold haha.
If freezing, you can keep it for 3-4 months.
Japanese Karaage Association defines Karaage（から揚げ or 空揚げ） as "Dishes that are lightly sprinkled with flour or starch on the ingredients and fried in oil."
They also state that "In general, many people imagine karaage as deep-fried chicken, but it is by no means limited. Other type of meat, fish, vegetables can also be called karaage."
There are a few differences between Katsu and Karaage, but the biggest difference would be that katsu uses panko breadcrumbs and karaage doesn't. It's also uncommon to use egg for karaage.
Boneless chicken thigh is mostly used but some people might use drumsticks or wings, so sometimes it can have bones.
It's pronounced kara-ah-geh, check out the audio example below.