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Chicken Karaage or Japanese Fried Chicken

Chicken Karaage or Japanese fried chicken is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. The chicken pieces turn out golden brown, tender and juicy inside and full of flavor, and extra crispy on the outside.

Overhead shot of chicken karaage or japanese fried chicken on a plate with uncooked ramen noodles and scallions on the side.

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The key to that crisp outer crust is dredging the meat in starch. Japanese cooks are partial to potato starch, so that’s what I use, but you could substitute cornstarch or flour.

One great benefit of using potato starch or cornstarch is that the dish is gluten free (be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari). Since my husband eats a gluten-free diet, this option is perfect.

What makes Japanese fried chicken so crispy?

The secret to getting extra crispy chicken karaage is to double fry the chicken pieces. Fry them once until they are light golden brown and then remove them from the oil. Once all of the pieces are fried the first time, add them to the oil again to fry a second time.

The second time you fry them, they will become a deep golden brown and shatteringly crisp on the outside. Perfect.

What does karaage mean?

Karaage is a Japanese cooking method whereby food—often chicken or tofu—is dredged in a potato starch, cornstarch, or flour and then fried in hot oil.

Traditionally, karaage chicken was not marinated before coating and frying. But these days, the meat is often marinated first in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic, and other seasonings.

Karaage is sometimes also called tatsutaage, which more specifically refers to pieces of meat or other foods that have been marinated in soy sauce, mirin, and other seasonings before being coated in starch or flour and fried. Now the two terms are often used interchangeably to refer to the same dish.

ingredients for chicken karaage shot from overhead. Ingredients include soy sauce, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, potato starch, and chicken. There are some kale leaves on the side.

What are the ingredients of karaage chicken?

This dish requires only a few ingredients and all of them are easy to find in any supermarket:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken (I prefer thigh meat, but you can use breast meat as well)
  • Soy sauce
  • Mirin or other rice wine
  • Sesame oil
  • Ginger
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Potato starch (look for this in the supermarket in either the Asian foods aisle or in the Jewish foods aisle or in a Japanese or Asian grocery or order it online), cornstarch, or flour
  • Cooking oil for frying
Raw chicken pieces dredged in potato starch.

How do you make it?

Karaage is very easy to make at home and can be made in as little as 45 minutes, even with 30 minutes of marinating time.

  1. Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to marinate. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will be. You can marinate the chicken as long as overnight.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade.
  4. Dredge the chicken in starch or flour.
  5. Heat 3 or 4 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or another high-sided, heavy-bottomed pot, to about 350ºF.
  6. Drop the dredged chicken pieces into the hot oil and fry until light golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain while you cook the remaining chicken pieces (you’ll need to cook the chicken in a few batches to avoid crowding the pot.)
  7. Once all of the chicken pieces have been fried the first time, fry them a second time, until they are a deep golden brown and very crisp on the outside. Drain again on a paper towel-lined plate.
  8. Serve hot plain, with any dipping sauce you like, or with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it.
low angled shot of japanse fried chicken o a plate with ramen noodles in the background

What is chicken karaage served with?

Karaage can be served as an entrée or an appetizer. You can offer a dipping sauce to go with it as a starter. I like serving it with Sriracha Ranch or a sweet-spicy gochujang sauce.

Serve it as a main dish on a bed of steamed rice or as part of a multi-dish Japanese meal that might include roasted vegetables, salad, miso soup, and other dishes.

But my favorite way to serve chicken karaage is as a topping for a bowl of Spicy Miso Ramen, along with sautéed greens. The crispness of the chicken is a great textural contrast to the tender, chewy noodles and steaming broth.

Spicy Miso Ramen Tare makes a perfect flavor base for the noodles and crispy chicken.

Overhead shot of the cooked chicken on a plate with a bowl of sliced scallions and some chopsticks on the side.
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Yield: Makes about 12 fish cakes

Thai Fish Cakes

low angle shot of fish cakes on a plate with dipping sauce and limes in the background

These easy Thai Fish Cakes are loaded with the flavors of lemongrass, cilantro, and hot chilies. This recipe uses Thai curry paste, which provides layers of flavor without requiring a ton of ingredients.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound white fish fillet, cut into several pieces
  • ¼ cup cilantro, plus additional for serving
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons red or green curry paste (see note)
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced Chinese long beans (or sub green beans)
  • ½ cup cooking oil (or enough to fill your skillet about ½-inch deep)
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the fish, curry paste, egg white, fish sauce, and sugar and pulse until the mixture forms a thick paste. Add the cornstarch and pulse until it is well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sliced beans.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, until it shimmers.
  3. Form the fish mixture into balls a little larger than golf balls and then flatten them into ½-inch-thick patties.
  4. Add the patties to the skillet, 3 or 4 at a time. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown. Transfer the cooked patties to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat until all of the patties have been formed and fried.
  5. Serve hot with lime wedges, cilantro, and Sweet Thai Chili Dipping Sauce, if desired.

Notes

1. You can use just about any white fish for this recipe. I’ve made it with both cod and catfish. Other options would be haddock, pollock, grouper, or snapper.

2. You can use either red or green Thai curry paste in this recipe, though red is more common. I love green curry paste, though, and think it works just as well in these fish cakes. I tested this recipe using Mae Ploy red curry paste and Mae Ploy green curry paste. One tablespoon of the red was plenty, while I found the green (which is less spicy) required 2 tablespoons to really pop the flavor.

3. Whichever type of curry paste you choose, be careful how much you use. The spice level can vary widely between brands, so start with a smaller amount if you are not used to very spicy food. I usually use Mae Ploy curry pastes, which are very spicy. If I use more than 1 or 2 tablespoons, it is too spicy for my family. Thai Kitchen brand is easy to find in supermarkets, and it is much milder. I would use at least 3 tablespoons of it.



Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 320Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 71mgSodium 729mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 2gSugar 6gProtein 21g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

Yield: Serves 4

Chicken Karaage or Japanese Fried Chicken

overhead shot of fried chicken karaage on a plate.

Crunchy chicken karaage or Japanese fried chicken is marinated and then coated in potato starch (or cornstarch or flour) and then deep fried to a crispy golden brown. This recipe is adapted from my book Ramen for Beginners.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake or mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the soy sauce,
    sake, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and stir to coat well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of oil and heat over high heat until you can see it shimmering.
  3. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and
    discard the marinade.
  4. In a bowl, dredge the chicken pieces in the potato starch until they are well coated.
  5. Drop the chicken pieces into the hot oil and cook, turning once or twice, until they are golden brown, 3 minutes. Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 472Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 138mgSodium 787mgCarbohydrates 55gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 30g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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