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Chicken Karaage.....Help!


okinawaChris
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I love Chicken Karaage that is sold all over mainly in the thigh nugget sized form. After much online recipe searching, I found a few and have been trying to make them at home with little luck.

All the recipes are similiar in that they say to marinade the cut up (cubed sized thigh meat) in a mixture of equal parts soy, mirin with some grated ginger and garlic thrown in. While this gives a close flavor to what I am looking for, it turns the chicken a very dark/black color during deep frying. I have tried a few different variations for the coating as well. I used a mochiko/corn starch mixture once which left the chicken with a white powdery appearance over the darkened chicken. I was deep frying at 370F in vegetable oil. Next time I used a mixture of 75% flour and 25% corn starch. This produced a doughy/flour tasting product, not the clean crisp Karaage I enjoy so much. So here are my questions:

1. What is a good marinade that will not burn and darken the chicken.

2. What is the best flour/starch (corn or potato) combination for coating. Or maybe no coating at all?

3. Oil. Vegetable or canola or??

4. Oil temperature.

Any help, hints or family secret recipes would be greatly appreciated!

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I think favorite karaage recipes may have a lot of persoanl preference. I like mine really crispy with some of the white still powdery like..... :blink:

I marinate the thighs in equal amounts of soy and sake with a couple slices of ginger and some smashed up scallions. Then I beat up an egg and dip the pieces in the egg then in a mixture of cornstarch and flour (2:1)

Then for the frying I follow a trick I saw on tv a while back, I fry them at a medium temp (sorry I don't follow exact degrees) until they turn a very light brown, then I remove them and let them rest for 4 minutes and then deep fry them again at a high heat until they are the color I want them.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I forgot to mention that my ex-boyfriend's mother made wonderful karaage, beside the regular marinade ingredients she also added oyster sauce, ketchup, honey and garlic....

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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a trick I saw on tv a while back,

Did you watch Tameshite Gatten?:

http://www.nhk.or.jp/gatten/archive/2001q2/20010606.html

First frying: 1 min. 30 sec.

Rest: 4 min.

Second frying: 40 sec.

In both fryings, the temperature should be 180C (356F).

My recipe is as follows:

500g chicken

30 cc shoyu

15 cc sake

7.5 cc mirin

Grated ginger

Optional: Garlic

Equal amounts of katakuriko (not cornstarch) and flour

Refer also to:

http://www.ktv.co.jp/ARUARU/search/arukaraage/kara_1.html

(I wonder if you read Japanese, though)

Good luck!

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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Thanks for all the advice. I will try the double deep frying method....just like a good Pomme Frite in Belgium! A couple of questions:

1. Is katakuriko potato starch? I used mochiko (sweet rice flour) on one of my attempts and it lead to a very dark/burnt looking end product.

2. Can Mirin be substituted for Sake or are they two different items? Is there such a thing as "cooking sake"?

3. Further recipe research mentioned that the soy sauce can lead to "darkening" of the karaage. They recommeded using a light (not low-sodium) soy sauce to prevent darkening and also frying at lower heat as ToraKris mentioned. Would regular Kikkoman be considered "light" soy sauce or is there a different brand I should look for. (if so a bottle picture would be great since reading labels at the local store is one of my downfalls!)

4. Other recipes also mentioned fresh ginger "juice" as part of the marinade. This makes sense so there won't be any pieces of raw ginger on the chicken to bite into or to burn.

Thanks again!

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I agree, you might be frying at too high a temperature - a chunk of dough should not hit the bottom of the heated oil, but neither should it bounce up so fast that it never goes below the surface.

I like the double fry method too.

Some darkening seems to be unavoidable if you use soy in your marinade, but it could also be caused by very hot oil, or too thin batter that doesn't seal the juices in. I don't marinade with the soy too long, as I think it makes the meat tough. Usually I put sake and some ginger with the meat when I buy it, and add extras within 30 minutes of frying.

Katakuri-ko is traditionally the starch of the dogtooth violet root, but supermarket katakuri-ko is always potato starch. I usually use about half katakuriko and half "weak" flour...but it depends on your own tastes. I don't like a really bready batter, so I don't use baking powder...in fact I prefer the tatsuta-age style, with the chicken tossed in katakuri-ko, excess shaken off, and fried in fairly hot oil.

Thanks for bringing up the topic, with Sports Day season nearly on us!

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Yeah, great topic!

Like Kristin says, personal preference has a lot to do with it, so you'll have to try out several different recipes before you find one you like. This is one case in which you're far better off strictly following a recipe rather than improvising. The work has already been done for you, so no need to risk a failed experiment.

Every once in a while there is a show on TV about karaage, with taste tests and sometimes scientific tests to determine which recipe is best in each category (crunchiest, juiciest, tastiest, best for bento etc).

One of the TV shows Hiroyuki mentioned had a special a few years ago, and my recipe is based on that. I marinate in equal parts regular soy sauce and sake with ginger juice (you're right, juice is better than the stringy pulp), minced garlic and a little sesame oil.

The coating is equal parts cornstarch and katakuri-ko, no egg.

I also use the double-frying method.

Some people do use mirin. It is often translated as 'sweet cooking sake'. 'Cooking sake' is something else.

Kikkoman has several kinds of soy sauce, including light soy sauce. It's more correctly called 'light colour soy sauce', and is called 'usu-kuchi shouyu' in Japanese. Picture here:

http://www.kikkoman.co.jp/products/lineup/11272.html

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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What great information! The picture of the light-colored soy from Kikkoman will really help me out when I go to Jusco. I think this will help with the "dark" problem I've had. I'll also pick up some katakuriko. I think this will help in getting a light/crisp coating. Now I have to find out how to juice a piece of ginger root....I know I should have bought that Juice-Man juicer I saw on TV all those years ago!

One other question. Is vegetable or canola oil fine for frying crispy karaage, or should I be looking for another oil type (if it is a japanese brand/type, a picture would really help!).

Thanks again for all the advice. I'll be putting your suggestions to the test tomorrow and will report back!

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I also forgot to mention that I don't marinade for too long, I usually pop the chicken in the marinade and then get everything ready, letting it sit at room temp for 15 to 30 minutes.

I make ginger juice by grating the ginger on a grater and then picking up the pulp and squeezing it. I use slices of ginger because it is even easier! :biggrin:

As to the oil I usually use canola because that is what I have in the house, but that or vegetable should be fine.

mirin should not be substituted for sake as it is sweeter, they do sell "cooking sake" but it isn't worth buying, it is similar to using "cooking wine" instead of real wine. Get the real stuff your taste buds will thank you and it isn't that much more expensive.

Can't wait to hear more!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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RESULTS

As promised, I completed my second Karaage attempt last night incorporating many of the ideas everyone shared. Here is the method and result:

I purchased 600g of boneless leg and thigh meat at the local Jusco. I also purchased the "light colored" Kikkoman soy and the katakuri-ko with the help of a nice sales associate who assisted me in locating the correct one!

After cubing the chicken meat, I added 1 tablespoon each of the soy sauce and sake. I then cut up a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger into thin round pieces that would be easy to remove prior to breading. I did the same with 2 garlic cloves. I marinated the chicken for 30 minutes.

I mixed equal parts corn starch and katakuri-ko. The limited liquid that I marinated the chicken in resulted in pieces just "wet" enough to properly give a very light coating when dredged in the corn starch/katakuri-ko mixture.

I heated up some vegetable oil to 350F and fried in batches. First fry was for 2 minutes then removed and rested for around 10 minutes. The second fry lasted around 5 minutes and I removed the pieces as they became perfectly golden brown. No Dark/Burnt results this time! Picture Perfect! :biggrin:

Taste Test. The karaage had a nice crunch to it and was still perfectly moist and juicy inside. It was great with a squeeze of lemon. I also had a dipping sauce of lemon juice and fine ground black and white pepper. The only downside was there wasn't much of the soy/sake/garlic/ginger flavor of the marinade in it. While it is important not the have the pieces hit the corn starch/katakuri-ko mixture too wet, I may have needed to have more liquid in the marinade for flavor and then simply "dried" the pieces off before dredging. I will also play with the marinade, adding suggested ingredients such as oyster sauce, ketchup, honey etc.

Thanks again!

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I may have needed to have more liquid in the marinade for flavor and then simply "dried" the pieces off before dredging.

I think you're right - just drain the chicken after marinading.

Great to hear all the details.

You can play with the marinade, adding western spices even, and you can also add things to the batter - these help the kara-age taste better when cold. For batter, try fresh herbs, but only a little, as they will burn more easily - chopped kinome (baby sansho leaves) or beni-tade (tiny red shiso sprouts, found with the sashimi condiments in the vegetable department), or shreds of yuzu peel. Easier to use are dried spice mixes like yuzu-sansho or shichimi-togarashi. Even a scattering of black sesame seeds is nice.

Like Kristin I use Canola oil for frying - commercial places use natane-abura (rapeseed oil, basically the same thing). The usual sarada-abura vegetable oil is a mix of soy and rapeseed oil - lots of people do use it for frying, but it is harder to get the batter crisp without being greasy.

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  • 3 weeks later...

unfortunately we didn't really follow a recipe....

I made it with 3 Japanese friends as part of a huge buffet for a going away party for another friend.

It wasn't much different than what was described above, we were using 2 kgs of thighs so we added large splashes of soy sauce and sake then we grated some ginger (juice only)and some garlic then added salt and pepper. They were deep fried in canola oil and coated with equal parts of flour and katakuriko (potato starch).

I deep fried them at a medium high temp until they turned a nice color, there were too many to do the double frying method.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 6 months later...

I'm interested in finding variations that the group has found in Karaage presentations. I have seen a few that include tossing the cooked crispy Karaage in Ponzu Sauce and another in a Korean style coating of sweet hot chili sauce. Let me know your favorites or interesting variations you have tried.

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My favorite kara-age was the one dipped in ponzu and then covered with a very egg-y (as in boiled eggs) tartar sauce. I really want to replicate this at home but am scared of messing it up and then having nothing for dinner...

I have a recipe for one that is covered with Thai sweet chile sauce.

what about flavorings before cooking?

A local betnoya-san has a yuzu-koshou kara-age that I keep thinking I am going to make at home and never get around to. My ex's mother made the best kara-age with a marinade of soy, sake, ketchup, oyster sauce, honey, sesame oil and lots of ginger and garlic. Those were so good!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I don't want to do anything to degrade my crispy karaage. I sometimes put some kanzuri on it just before I eat, though.

The March 18th edition of Hanamaru Market featured karage and some karrage variations.

http://www.tbs.co.jp/hanamaru/tokumaru/050318.html

(Japanese only)

I watched the show, and reconfirmed a tip for making crispy araage: using one part katakuriko (potato starch) and one part flour for coating.

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i think it is more a dish a la s e asia but i add lots of red chilis and peanuts to the oil just before the chicken is finished cooking. it looks quite nice on the plate and it really gives the chicken a kick! :raz:

"Thy food shall be thy medicine" -Hippocrates

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  • 1 year later...
Okay Im trying the frozen Ajinomoto Kara-age tonight...

What are some traditional things to eat it with?

ETA: I loved the Karaage...

Can someone PLEASE tell me what other frozen items Ajinomoto has?

Nothing. Just eat it without any seasoning. It's already seasoned enough. If you make karaage yourself and you find it bland, eat it with soy sauce. I once had it with yuzu koshou. It was good.

Here is a lineup of their product.

Scroll down and click any of the eight blue items.

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Okay Im trying the frozen Ajinomoto Kara-age tonight...

What are some traditional things to eat it with?

ETA: I loved the Karaage...

Can someone PLEASE tell me what other frozen items Ajinomoto has?

Nothing. Just eat it without any seasoning. It's already seasoned enough. If you make karaage yourself and you find it bland, eat it with soy sauce. I once had it with yuzu koshou. It was good.

Here is a lineup of their product.

Scroll down and click any of the eight blue items.

No, I didnt mean seasonings, I meant accompanying side dishes. Like is it more traditional to eat Karaage with rice or with noodles? Any veggies that compliment Karaage?

I had mine with lemon and veggies with shira-ae and rice.

Yummy.

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Okay Im trying the frozen Ajinomoto Kara-age tonight...

What are some traditional things to eat it with?

ETA: I loved the Karaage...

Can someone PLEASE tell me what other frozen items Ajinomoto has?

Nothing. Just eat it without any seasoning. It's already seasoned enough. If you make karaage yourself and you find it bland, eat it with soy sauce. I once had it with yuzu koshou. It was good.

Here is a lineup of their product.

Scroll down and click any of the eight blue items.

No, I didnt mean seasonings, I meant accompanying side dishes. Like is it more traditional to eat Karaage with rice or with noodles? Any veggies that compliment Karaage?

I had mine with lemon and veggies with shira-ae and rice.

Yummy.

Oh, anything. Salad, atsuyaki tamago, pickles, and what have you. Karaage is usually considered a "shusai" (main dish), and karaage bento is quite popular at bento shops and conbini.

Karaage is usually eaten with rice, not noodles. In contrast, tempura is probably more often eaten with soba than rice. Other fries such as tonkatsu, korokke, and menchi are usually eaten with rice and sometimes with bread, as sandwiches.

At restaurants, karaage is sometimes served on lettuce leaves.

P.S. When I first read your post, I thought about accompanying side dishes. :biggrin:

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Since Kara-age is in the same realm as drinking foods, you could be all trendy and serve leaves of raw cabbage and some kind of cold miso-based sauce or mayonnaise along with it...

(This "saabisu" offering seems to be the most unifying experience of my last 2 years of izakaya visits in Tokyo).

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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