Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me to develop a recipe for Chicken Karaage. It just so happened that this past weekend I needed a break from developing recipes for my next cookbook, and I was craving fried chicken, so it felt like the perfect time to work on this fan favorite.
In Japanese, Karaage (唐揚げ) is not necessarily a direct translation of the dish, but rather the cooking method. The first kanji character, 唐, translates to “Tang Dynasty”, or more loosely, “China”, which suggests that this dish was influenced by Chinese cuisine. Chicken Karaage itself has only been recently popular in Japan, mostly over the past 50 years, but it was likely first developed during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The key to a crispy Karaage is to toss the chicken in potato starch to form a light coating right before you drop it in hot oil. I like to use lard when frying chicken, but I’ve heard some amazing things about Chicken Karaage fried in duck fat, so if you have any on hand, maybe try that instead. I like to pair my Karaage with a citrusy Ponzu dipping sauce, but many people also prefer Japanese (Kewpie) mayo.
Gluten-Free Chicken Karaage (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal)
2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2″ ginger, peeled and minced or grated (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
3 tbsp tamari (or 5 tbsp coconut aminos)
2 tbsp sake or mirin (ideally 1 tbsp each)
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup potato starch, more if needed
2 cups lard, duck fat, avocado oil, or coconut oil
kosher salt to taste
sliced green onion to serve
lemon slices to serve
togarashi powder to serve
Ponzu dipping sauce:
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup sake or mirin (ideally 1/4 cup each)
1 tsp honey
1 small (3″x3″) piece of kombu
1/2 ounce bonito flakes (Katsuobushi)
1/4 cup lime juice (juice of 2 limes)
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
1/2 cup tamari
1. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut the bone out of the chicken thigh, then cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces (it’s better to cut them so they are not uniform, so that they look more interesting when cooked). In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, ginger, tamari, sake, and honey, then stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes while you prepare your Ponzu dipping sauce.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sake, and honey. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then add the kombu and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the bonito flakes, then cool for 10 minutes. Using a fine sieve, strain the liquid into a separate mixing bowl, and discard the solids (you can rinse and eat the kombu if you’d like, or use it to make another batch of sauce). Add the lime juice, lemon juice, and tamari to the mixing bowl, then set aside.
3. Warm the lard or oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat; for this type of frying, I like to use a tall saucepan because it gives the oil more depth to work with. As the oil warms, transfer the chicken to a colander to drain any excess liquid marinade. Once the oil reaches 325F, toss the chicken pieces with the potato starch so that they are coated – it’ll basically look like a big mushy pile. Using tongs or chopsticks, remove pieces of chicken from the pile and add them to the oil, and fry in batches until just past golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels, then dust with kosher salt and serve with the Ponzu dipping sauce.
** To make a Japanese (Kewpie) style mayo, combine 5 tbsp mayonnaise with 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey, and a dash of salt and white pepper.