Kara-age is one of my favourite Japanese recipes, and it can be found on izakaya menus everywhere. A light but flavourful soy-based marinade sits underneath a very light flour coating, which gives the dish its name. Kara-age means “empty fry” or “naked fry”, which refers to the chicken being fried without a thick batter. Frying the chicken three times at high heat, and with resting time in between, produces a crispy skin. The inside cooks from residual heat, resulting in tender and succulent meat. This recipe serves four as part of a shared meal.
400 g chicken thigh fillets, skin on
60 ml (¼ cup) light soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp grated ginger, juice only
pinch of sugar
75 g (½ cup) potato flour (or substitute cornflour)
pinch of salt
oil, for deep-frying
lemon slices, Japanese mayonnaise and shichimi tougarashi (Japanese seven-spice), to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 15 minutes
Slice the chicken into large pieces, about 5 cm across. Transfer to a non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl. Combine the soy sauce, sake, ginger juice and sugar and pour over chicken, turning to coat. Marinate for about 15 minutes.
Place the flour in a large bowl and stir through the salt. Use chopsticks to pull the chicken out of the marinade and drop it into the flour, one piece at a time. (Adding the pieces one at a time stops you from pouring in too much of the marinade, and stops the chicken from sticking together.)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok to 190°C [visual indicator]. Dust off excess flour from the chicken, and add the chicken to the oil. Deep-fry for 1 minute. Transfer the chicken to a rack and rest for 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the oil and fry for 30 seconds, and then rest on a rack for another 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the oil and fry for 30 seconds, and then rest for 1-2 minutes in a warm place.
Fry the shishito pepper in the oil for 1 minute, then drain.
Serve the chicken with lemon and a little Japanese mayonnaise dusted with shichimi tougarashi and a single shishito pepper.