Learn how to make succulent, melt in the mouth chashu made with juicy chicken thigh simmered in a fragrant broth and soaked in a rich and sweet soy sauce based marinade. It's simple to do and every element can be used to make a variety of delicious Japanese dishes!
Disclaimer: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
What is chicken chashu?
Chashu is a meat dish that originated from a Chinese dish known as Char siu. It is usually made with pork that has been soaked in soy sauce mixed with sugar, Chinese cooking wine, and spices...etc, then grilled or steamed. The long cooking time and combined cooking methods result in a succulent, melt in the mouth meat dish that can be used in various recipes.
In Chinese cuisine, Char Siu is usually made by grilling the pork meat, however, in Japan chashu can be described as "boiled pork" and is usually simmered instead. In addition, Japanese chashu is characterized by the use of pork that is very fatty, while Chinese char siu is characterized by a sweet taste with less fat. You could say they are two very different dishes.
In other words, chashu is a dish that originated from China but has been modified uniquely in Japan. Each ramen restaurant has its own specialties, using different parts of pork and different cooking methods.
In Japan, chashu is most often used as a topping for ramen, especially in shoyu ramen (soy sauce broth). Other than ramen, it is sometimes eaten as a beer snack or used to make rice dishes such as chashu donburi (rice bowl) or chahan (fried rice).
Recently, chicken chashu, which is made by applying the same process to chicken meat, is also becoming popular too. In this recipe, I'll be teaching you how to make delicious chashu using chicken thigh, and I must say, it works amazingly well! (I also have a pork chashu recipe, if you want to check it out click here!)
Ingredients to make this chicken chashu recipe
Making chicken chashu takes some time, but the actual process is very simple (mostly waiting) and doesn't require too many ingredients! Here is the ingredient list for this recipe:
Instructions on how to make homemade chicken chashu
Here are my step by step instructions on how to make perfect chicken chashu from scratch at home! I include process pictures and detailed explanations here, but for the ingredient quantities and a printable recipe with simplified instructions, see the recipe card below.
Pierce the skin
The first step is to poke holes in the chicken by stabbing it with a fork all over on both sides. The main purpose of this is to help the stock and marinade penetrate all the way through the meat after it's been rolled. Not only that, but it tenderises it too!
Next, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin. Flattening it out until it's a similar thickness all the way over will make it easier to roll and cook more evenly, the process also makes the meat more tender.
Roll and tie
Roll up each chicken thigh so that the skin is on the outside and then tie it with butcher's string. Make sure to wrap it a few times from top to bottom and tie a few tight knots to secure it, you don't want the string falling off during the cooking process! You don't need to use any particular method for tying the string, but if you want to see the way I do it then please refer to my pork chashu recipe, I have an instruction video you can watch there.
Optional step: You can seal the meat in a frying pan before you simmer it to crisp up the skin and add a charred flavour.
Simmer in a broth
Place the chicken in a large pot and fill with cold water until the chicken is fully covered. Place it on the stove and bring the water to a boil on a medium-high setting.
Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and add the ginger, garlic and spring onions. If there's scum from the meat floating on top of the water then scoop it out with a spoon.
Once everything is added, place a drop lid on top and leave it to simmer for 1 hour. The drop lid will stop too much liquid from evaporating. If you don't have a drop lid, see here how to make your own using baking paper or foil!
Make the marinade
In a separate pan, add soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar and bring it to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol in the sake and mirin and then remove it from the heat.
Once the chicken has finished simmering, lift it out of the pot and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Make sure you keep the stock!
Once it's cool enough to touch, place the chicken in a zip lock bag and add some of the stock, followed by the marinade.
Push the air out of the bag and seal it up at the top.
I recommend the ziplock bag rather than a container to ensure the chicken is fully submerged in the marinade.
Tip: Place the ziplock bag on a plate or bowl while it's in the fridge to avoid any accidental leaks!
Rest the chicken chashu in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight for the best flavour.
Slice and serve
Slice the chicken chashu while it's cold, this will stop it from falling apart. (I tried to cut it while it was still warm once, it was not pretty!)
You can enjoy this chicken chashu on ramen, donburi (rice bowl) or eat it as a snack!
How to use leftover chicken stock soup and marinade
When you make this chicken chashu, there will be leftover chicken stock soup and marinade. Of course, there's no need to throw them away and waste them! You can use them as an ingredient to make another great dish!
Chicken soup for ramen broth
Ramen is made with 4 elements; the broth, the tare (sauce), the noodles and the toppings. You can use the leftover chicken broth from this chicken chashu recipe as a base, then simply add tare, noodles and toppings to have your own complete homemade ramen! You can even use the finished chicken chashu for topping too.
Marinade as soy sauce like condiment
The marinade is like a weaker, sweeter and flavoured version of soy sauce. So you can use the left over marinade as soy sauce like condiment.
However, my recommendation is to use it to make chahan (fried rice).
Again, you can cut up your chicken chashu and use it as an ingredients for chahan too!
You can use the marinade as sauce for chicken chashu don
If you want to use your chicken chashu to make chicken chashu don (rice bowl), you can drizzle some of the marinade as an additional sauce.
Even though my chashu don recipe is made with pork chashu, you can use the same topping ideas for your chicken chashu don from here!
Chashu can be kept in the refrigerator in a ziplock back for 3-5 days. It's generally kept cold and will be warmed naturally from the heat of ramen soup or cooked rice in a donburi dish. There's no need to reheat chashu.
It can also be kept in the freezer for up to two weeks. If you freeze the whole block, you will need to defrost it overnight in the fridge and then use it up within 3 days.
Alternatively, you could cut it into slices before freezing for convenient single portions that defrost quickly. I always recommend defrosting meat in the fridge to keep it at a safe temperature, and if it's already cut into slices the defrosting time will be shortened considerably.
Chicken Chashu (Japanese Braised Chicken Thigh)
Chicken and broth
- 600-700 g boneless chicken thigh(s) - boneless, skin-on
- 50 g green onion(s) - green part
- 50 g fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 150 ml soy sauce
- 50 ml sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 30 g sugar
- 250 ml chicken stock - leftover from simmering
- Stab 600-700 g boneless chicken thigh(s) with a fork all over both sides.
- Cover with plastic wrap and beat with a rolling pin until flattened and an even thickness all over.
- Roll and wrap with butcher's string. Tie and knot tightly to keep it secure.
- Optional step: Heat a frying pan on medium-high and seal the surface to crisp up the skin and add a charred flavour.
- Place the chicken in a large pot and fill with cold water until completely submerged.
- Heat the pot on medium-high and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer and scoop out any scum floating around the top. Then add 50 g green onion(s), 50 g fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic,
- Place a drop lid on top and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
- While it's simmering, take a small pan and add 150 ml soy sauce, 50 ml sake, 1 tbsp mirin and 30 g sugar. Bring to boil on a medium setting and allow to bubble for 2-3 minutes to burn off the alcohol in the sake and mirin. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. This is the base of the marinade.
- Once the chicken has been simmering for 1 hour, turn off the heat and remove it from the stock. Place it on a plate and allow to cool for about 10-20 minutes or until cool enough to touch.
- When it's cool enough, place the chicken inside a zip lock bag and pour in 250 ml chicken stock from the pot we cooked the chicken in earlier.
- Add the cooled marinade to the bag, push out the air and seal the top. (Extra optional step: add a few boiled eggs to make easy ramen eggs!)
- Store in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight.
- Slice while cold and serve with ramen, donburi or eat as a snack.