Karaage（唐揚げ – karaage – pronounced: “ka-LAH-geh” [the capitalized means the stressed syllable] – literally: Tang deep-fried food）is an extremely delicious, crispy, wonderful, amazingly flavored Japanese dish or fried pieces of dark meat chicken. Sadly, I don’t deep-fry in my house because it is too annoying and uses too much oil. So, in this recipe, I bake them for a really really delicious and still crispy recipe! Some people are Karaage purists and think that frying is the only way to do things, but I like the baked one because it doesn’t use so much oil. I include deep-frying instructions in the recipe if you want to deep-fry. 🙂
You must be thinking of the strange literal translation. Chinese is easier to do literal translations because every syllable in the language has its own meaning, so every word is a compound of two ideas (except the rare monosyllabic words). Meanwhile, Japanese is polysyllabic (singular syllables almost always have no meaning except for particles and very rare monosyllabic words), so I use the either the Chinese character meanings, or in non-Chinese borrowings, the words the name comes from. Anyways, 唐 means the Tang Dynasty (it’s pronounced “Tong” as in kitchen tongs), and it is used to refer to China because the Tang Dynasty was one of the most prosperous and best dynasties in Chinese history. For example, 唐人街 (tang ren jie, pronounced: “tong erehn [one syllable, say “er” really quickly] dzyeh”) in Chinese literally means “Tang people street” and means Chinatown. Meanwhile, 揚げ (age) in Japanese means “a food that has been deep fried” and is derived from the verb 揚げる (ageru – to deep-fry). If you’re wondering, it means both “to scatter” and “to praise” in Chinese according to the dictionary, although I have never used it before, so it isn’t a common word. Many Chinese characters have totally different meanings that Japanese, like “toilet paper” in Chinese, means “letter” (like what you write, with “Dear ____”. not like ABC) in Japanese. lol!
The reason why karaage is “Chinese” is that it was inspired by Chinese cuisine. There is a dish called 滑肉 (hua rou – pronounced: “hwah eroh”) in Chinese cuisine, where boneless pork pieces the size of karaage are marinaded, coated with starch, and deep-fried. They look exactly like karaage (but with Chinese seasonings). However, usually afterwards, they are added to a soup, making them not crispy anymore. Actually, my step-grandmother made it for me on my first day in China, without adding to a soup, and they looked exactly like karaage!
Anyways, karaage in Japan is very popular in bento. If you make this recipe, you can add it to a bento and it will be very tasty! Later, I will post a recipe on how to make a bento. It is actually very easy, if you can wake up ten minutes early, hehe.
400 grams boneless chicken thigh (skin is optional. I would use skin for fried but not for baked.) (Americans love chicken breast, so it is okay too but thigh tastes a lot better and is much more challenging to become dry and stringy. I recommend against using breast, because it will become dry in the oven.)
1/4 cup potato starch (Potato starch is used in Japan. You can substitute corn starch or tapioca starch. I used tapioca starch because the one from Thailand is much cheaper than corn starch.)
about a tbsp of oil
lettuce for serving (optional)
lemon wedges for serving
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tbsp grated garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sake
3/4 tsp sesame oil
3/4 tsp sugar
about 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
about 1/8 tsp salt
1. Optional: Poke small incisions on both sides of each chicken thigh, allowing more marinade flavor to enter. Trim the excess fat.
2. Cut the chicken thighs into large bite-size pieces. Don’t make them too small or too large. (Is that too hard? Well, about 20 pieces at the end should be good. Some people like somewhat larger karaage, then 16 pieces should be good.)
3. Put chicken in a bowl and add all of the marinade to the chicken. Mix well with chopsticks or other mixing utensil. Marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes or more. If you have no time, just leave it 10 minutes. If you have extra time, you can marinade up to overnight.
4. Add starch and mix well to coat evenly.
5 (OVEN Baking Instructions). Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I used aluminum foil, and the chicken stuck, so it was quite challenging to remove! If you use parchment paper, it will not stick :))Brush 1 tbsp oil evenly on it. Place chicken in one layer, making sure no piece is touching another piece. Bake 30 minutes. (Yes, it should be already cooked before the 30 minutes is up, but it makes it more crispy! If using thigh, it will not dry out during cooking. However, if you use breast, it will, so I recommend against using breast.) Take out and make sure there is no pink in the middle of the largest piece. (There shouldn’t be after 30 minutes, but just make sure, hehe.) Cool down a little, then eat!
5 (DEEP-FRY Intructions). Heat oil in deep-frier or deep-frying pot/pan/wok to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 Celsius) and add the chicken pieces. Deep-fry until fully cooked, crispy, and golden brown. Take out and cool down on a rack, then eat!
6. How to Eat: Serve on a plate (it looks good with lettuce under) with lemon wedges. Sprinkle lemon juice on top before eating, because it makes it even more delicious! I eat it with rice, miso soup, and Japanese side dishes (okazu). Yummy! I hope you enjoy it!