This year has been fabulous for Asian cookbooks. I am not just talking about Asian Tofu! It’s in fine company with an outstanding group of 2013 publications. While I’ve checked out Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl’s Vietnamese Street Food and Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking, I hadn’t had the chance to dive into the non-Vietnamese ones, until now. This fall, I was out of town for five weeks total. Phew, I’m back home working on the banh mi cookbook. In between, I’m trying out recipes from autumn Asian cookbook releases that caught my eye.
The first one is Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food, a work that takes a non-fussy, matter-of-fact approach to Japanese cooking. Nancy lives in Japan, where she teaches home cooking and is married to an organic farmer. Their life is filled with straightforward food, much of which is detailed in the cookbook. It’s a highly personal work, not meant to be strict and authoritative, but casual and inviting. You can tell that Nancy put a lot of love into her book. Some recipes require a trip to a Japanese market but others, like this fried ginger chicken recipe (tori no kara age) are a doable with supermarket ingredients. Plug in where you want and can. Sometimes the instruction are opaque and a little finesse is required. For example, when the oil temperature for frying the chicken wasn't specified, I clipped on a thermometer. The recipe had charming cues but I wanted a little more accuracy.
I chose this recipe because frankly, I never get enough kara age when I order it at Japanese restaurants. My husband and I politely divide up however much there is on the plate. Making it at home was a fine workaround. We both got our fill.
The only ingredient that may challenge you is the potato starch. Buy it from a health food market or specialty foods market in the flour aisle. Or, save money with starch purchased from an Asian market. It’s fine, light stuff that flies so watch out when working with it. When used as coating for deep-frying, potato starch fries to a delicate crisp-chewiness, which doesn’t overwhelm the food that it covers. (I use potato starch for Japanese fried agedashi tofu, a classic.) You can still taste the food that's been fried instead of being overwhelmed by a super crunchy coating.
That said, I strayed from Nancy’s recipe by double frying some of the pieces to return their crispness. That was in spite of making just a half batch. I fried boneless skinless thighs instead of skin-on thighs because I was too lazy to debone the thighs. (In the U.S., it's hard to find boneless thighs with their pajamas on them.). Finally, I served the fried chicken with wedges of lemon to cut the richness. Dip the chicken in sauce and you throw off its balance of flavor.
Nancy’s spot on about reheating leftovers in a skillet; the toaster oven, which I usually rely on, made the chicken wet with grease. The recipe below was adapted from Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McNeel Publishing 2012).
Japanese Fried Ginger Chicken
Tori No Kara Age
Yields 4 servings as a main dish, 8 to 12 as a snack
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds / 675 g total)
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- Scant 1/4 cup / 60 ml Japanese or Korean soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon sake
- Canola oil, for deep-frying
- About 1 cup potato starch
- Lemon wedges
- Trim excessive fat from the thighs (oh, if only it were that easy!), then cut them into 2-inch (6 cm) rough pieces. With pieces that are more than 1 inch (3 cm) thick, cut them open as if to butterfly the piece; they’ll fry faster.
- In a zip-top plastic bag, combine the chicken, ginger, soy sauce, and sake. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or for best flavor, stick it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. About 45 minutes before frying, take the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature.
- Heat a good 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil in a wok or medium saucepan over medium heat. Aim for a temperature a little over 350F (180C). Have a baking sheet lined with a layer of newspaper and paper towels, or just several layers of paper towels.
- Meanwhile put half of the potato starch into a shallow bowl. When the oil temperature approaches 325F (160C), dredge about half of the chicken pieces in the starch, coating them well. Gently drop them into the oil when it’s hot enough and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring and turning, until golden brown and done.
- Return the oil to temperature, adjusting the heat as needed, before frying another batch, adding more starch. After all the chicken has been fried, increase the temperature to over 360F (185C). Briefly refry any pieces that have lost too much of their crispness. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Adapted from: Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
The marinade in Nancy’s recipe is very straightforward. You can tweak the flavor, if you like with garlic, for example. Or add a touch of sugar. If you’ve cooked from this book, share your thoughts and experiences. Or, maybe you’re a Japanese fried chicken expert? How do you make yours?
Related posts and recipes:
- Kaffir Lime Fried Chicken inspired by Ruhlman’s Twenty
- Best Korean Fried Chicken recipe (Yangnyeom Dak)
- Homemade Bun Rice Noodles from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan
- Faux Viet Crab Noodle Soup from Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl
- Pork Belly, Pickled Mustard Greens and Tofu from Burma by Naomi Duguid
- Soy-Glazed Black Pepper Chicken from The Hakka Cookbook by Linda Anusasananan