One chef, one recipe: Chicken Karaage by Chef Shubham Thakur

A traditional Japanese fried dish, karaage, is code for Crunch Town all the way. This recipe by Chef Shubham Thakur, Chef De Cuisine – Megu, The Leela Palace New Delhi is exactly what you need this winter!
If prepared the traditional japanese way, chicken karaage is guaranteed to give you some of the crunchiest chicken you'll ever have. Image: shutterstock
If cooked the traditional Japanese way, Chicken Karaage is guaranteed to give you some of the crunchiest chicken you’ll ever have. Image: Shutterstock

You can’t have a conversation about fried chicken without mentioning karaage. As Japanese cuisine continues to be celebrated globally, karaage is one of the several iconic dishes making its mark alongside the trendy ramen and mochi. 

Contrary to popular opinion, karaage refers to not just fried chicken, but a deep-fried dish where either a protein or vegetable is coated in potato starch and deep-fried until crisp. While chicken is the most common protein, it’s also made with seafood, such as blowfish. From bento boxes to Izakaya eateries, karaage is both a staple homemade comfort food and also an elevated dish that won’t be amiss on a gourmet table. 

Historically, the term karaage referred to any ingredient coated with flour or starch and then deep-fried without being seasoned. It is commonly confused with Tastutaage, another fried chicken preparation where the chicken and breading are both seasoned. 

Bite-sized pieces of crispy chicken karaage are often found in bento boxes across japan, adding some fried comfort to the variety of delicious food on offer. Image: shutterstock
Bite-sized pieces of crispy chicken karaage are often found in bento boxes across Japan, adding some fried comfort to the variety of delicious food on offer. Image: Shutterstock

To the east of Osaka, there is a river called Tastutagawa, which is famous for the beautiful autumn foliage surrounding it. Chicken, when marinated in soy sauce and then coated in starch and fried, turns the colour of autumn leaves, which is how the term Tastutaage was coined. Therefore, modern karaage, as we know it, is technically Tastutaage, although the terms are used interchangeably for the most part today. 

In Japan, karaage is typically made with skin-on boneless chicken thighs, which have more flavour than chicken breasts. The marinade and seasonings often vary according to preferences, but primarily comprise soy sauce, sake, and ginger.

For the coating, most karaage experts would recommend potato starch over all other flour for maximum crispiness and crunchy texture. However, cornstarch makes for a close substitute if you have trouble finding potato starch.

Suggested read: One chef, one recipe: Mangalorean Jackfruit Gassi by Chef Eram Amberin

Like with the best karaage recipes, chef shubham's recipe too calls for double frying of the chicken to ensure a perfect golden-brown crispiness
Like with the best karaage recipes, Chef Shubham’s recipe too calls for double frying of the chicken to ensure a perfect golden-brown crispiness.

Given Chef Shubham Thakur’s several years of experience in Japanese cuisine, it’s no surprise that his recipe for Chicken Karaage is perfection itself. Having worked at Megu, Wasabi by Morimoto at Taj Mahal, New Delhi, he is also the owner of Yokoso at The Lodhi New Delhi. His return to Megu as its chef de cuisine marks the advent of bigger plans for the place, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store! 

Suggested read: One chef, one recipe: Sugo di pomodoro by Chef Sarita Pereira

Chicken Karaage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 160gm chicken leg with skin
  • 90ml cooking sake
  • 30ml light soy sauce
  • 10gm grated garlic
  • 60gm tempura flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Refined oil, to fry

Method

  • Process the chicken leg and clean the skin nicely. Dice into 8 even pieces.
  • In a mixing bowl add the egg yolk, light soy sauce, cooking sake, and the chicken and let it marinate it for 20-30 mins.
  • Meanwhile, put oil to medium heat. It shouldn’t go beyond 160-180 degrees celsius .
  • Add tempura flour in the mix and coat it nicely.
  • Put the first batch of chicken and fry it until light golden brown.
  • Take it off and let it rest.
  • Then fry it again until golden brown. Serve with Japanese tonkatsu sauce and homemade mayonnaise.

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