We used to order chicken karaage (Japanese seasoned fried chicken) quite often whenever we dine at Japanese restaurants, where we would usually compare which ones made the best karaage. There are many versions to these succulent and crispy deep-fried chicken "nuggets". Some have a thin smooth layer of coating, some are more crumb-like, and some have hardly any coating at all, but they are delicious in their own ways. A lot of it also depends on the marinade used for the chicken. I can't say what the perfect karaage should taste like, but the ones I've made here are are really tasty. It has a nice balance of flavours with a perfect layer of coating that is deliciously crunchy.
I'm not sure what the difference between karaage and tatsuta-age is actually, but they are both fried chicken! I will just refer to them as karaage here. I make these once in a while when I remember to, or on days when I'm not testing out new recipes. They are really easy to make if you don't mind the deep-frying part, which is not as intimidating as some might think. It's unlikely that you will have oil splattering everywhere, so cleaning up is pretty quick. All you need to do is cut the chicken fillets into cubes and mix them up with the marinade. Then, just a dusting of tapioca starch and they are ready for frying.
Speaking of tapioca starch, in order to get this perfectly light and crunchy coating on the chicken, please use Sunlight brand tapioca starch and not ordinary tapioca starch. It's made in Taiwan and I believe it's used for making the Taiwanese XXL chicken cutlet, but that's another story. You can probably find it at most Asian supermarkets, but if not, you can just substitute with potato starch, or cornstarch is fine too. However, with potato/cornstarch, you will need to double-fry the chicken in order to "crispify" it further. I found that this was not necessary when I used the tapioca starch, as long as you get the chicken nice and brown the first time. Please find this yummy recipe after the jump.
Chicken Karaage / Tatsuta-age Recipe
500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup Sunlight brand tapioca starch (or substitute with potato/cornstarch)*
Oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp minced onion
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp sake
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg yolk
Combine chicken with the marinade ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Heat up 3-4 cups of oil in a wok/pan to 180C. Shake off excess marinade from the chicken and dredge it in the tapioca starch until evenly coated (including the nooks and crannies). Shake off excess flour. Slowly lower a piece of chicken into the hot oil, and if it sizzles, the oil should be sufficiently hot. Repeat with the rest of the chicken and fry in two batches to avoid overcrowding in the pan. Fry for 5-8 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and cooked. Drain well on absorbent kitchen paper or a rack. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1. If you are using tapioca starch, the coating on the chicken will maintain its crunchiness quite well. You will need to use Sunlight brand tapioca starch, which feels slightly coarse and flaky. It gives the fried chicken a layer of crunchy coating with a crumb-like texture.
2. If using potato starch, you will need to double-fry the chicken (ie. after the chicken has cooled down for 5 minutes or so, fry them again in hot oil for 2 minutes) and this will enhance the crispiness.