No matter what major city in the world you might be in, chances are you’ll find a bustling fried chicken restaurant on at least one busy street corner. Of the many types of fried chicken available, the Japanese style— with its flavorful, crispy coating and tender meat—is my favorite. For most versions of this style, the meat is fried once, cooled slightly, and then fried again. Double-frying is the secret to creating the crispiest coating on the outside with mouth-wateringly juicy chicken on the inside.
Four of my favorite styles of this Japanese dish are karaage, tatsutaage, nanban, and tebasaki. Karaage and tatsutaage are very popular in Japan. Karaage is typically dredged in all-purpose flour or potato starch. After much experimentation, I’ve found that using a combination of the two works best because they serve different purposes. The potato starch imparts a light crispiness while the all-purpose flour locks in moisture. Also, I love using a bit of mashed fresh fruit, such as papaya or pineapple, in karaage because the enzymes break down the proteins in the chicken and make it more tender.
Tatsutaage, named for the Tatsuta river in the Nara Prefecture, where I grew up, is similar to karaage, but uses a marinade that turns the chicken dark red once fried. It’s coated only in potato starch. The dish is said to be reminiscent of its namesake in autumn, when red maple leaves fall into the white cresting river.
The other two styles I’m fond of are lesser known but also delicious. Chicken Nanban is coated in an egg batter and then dipped in a sweet-and-sour sauce. For tebasaki, Nagoya Style, chicken wings are dipped in a flavorful sauce while still hot, and then seasoned heavily with pepper and sesame seeds.
With these recipes, you won’t need to cross the international date line to discover why fried chicken is so popular in Japan.