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Fried chicken in Japan is called karaage (ka-ra-ah-geh), and can be found everywhere, from roadside izakaya, to convenience stores, to Friday dinner at home. Quickly marinated, then coated in potato starch that fries up delicate and crisp, karaage is perfect for a quick meal or for parties. My twist is serving it with sansho hot honey along with the traditional squeeze of lemon, balancing the richness of the chicken and amplifying the deep umami of shoyu and saké.
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs (skin on or skinless as you prefer)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp saké
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
Potato starch (can substitute corn starch) to coat
Neutral oil for frying (I prefer high oleic safflower)
1/2 cup honey (a neutral one like clover is fine)
2 tsp rice vinegar
Cut the chicken into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Mix the chicken thoroughly with the soy sauce, saké, garlic, honey, and ginger. Allow to marinate for 1 hour.
Mix the chile flakes, sansho, vinegar, and honey together and set aside. If your honey is particularly thick, warming it gently will help you mix everything.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, drip dry in a colander, then dredge in potato starch. Allow to air dry for about 10 minutes on a rack.
Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees. Fry 3-5 minutes then rest for 2-3 minutes on a wire rack with a towel underneath (the air circulation keeps them crispier than drying on just towels).
For extra crispness they can be fried again for 1 minute after resting.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon and the sansho hot honey. And if you end up making more than you can eat it's also great cold from the fridge the next day.
This simple marinade is a great jumping off point for exploring other asian flavors:
The hot honey is fantastic on all sorts of other things, traditional fried chicken of course, but also anywhere you'd like a bit of sweet and heat. Try it with pancakes, both traditional, and savory, or with french toast.
Food image and recipe © Christian Leue. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org