Crisp and Juicy Japanese Fried Chicken

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

If you follow my Special Fork blog posts, you know that I am wrangling each Friday with trying to make an appealing bento lunch to entice my pre-school granddaughter. She’s a picky eater and spends more time socializing than eating during the lunch hour at school.

By taking over Friday lunch duties, I save her parents a little time, and it gives me a chance to see if I can make a difference in Little Miss T’s eating habits. At this point, the goal is simply to get her to eat—introducing more whole grains and other noble dietary aspirations come later!

Recently, I made chicken karaage, chicken bites marinated with soy sauce, garlic and ginger; coated with potato starch (katakuriko); and fried until crunchy. This is one of those standard menu items you find in prepared bento lunches from Japanese takeout places, and is a perennial favorite. My grandchild ate it all up!

Chicken karaage makes excellent adult food too—served as an appetizer, to fill your own lunchbox, or as a quick main dish for dinner.

Chicken Karaage
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon minced ginger
¼ cup mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake)
¼ cup naturally brewed soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 ½ pounds boneless, skin-on chicken thighs (about 5 large thighs)
1 ½ cups potato starch (katakuriko) see note below
Oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl combine, garlic, ginger, mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil. Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch cubes and add to the bowl, tossing to combine thoroughly. Marinate 1 hour, stirring once, to distribute marinade.

In a clean paper bag or a large plastic bag, add potato starch. Drain chicken from marinade and add to bag. Close bag and shake to coat chicken.

In preparation for frying, set a wire rack (such as a cookie rack) on a paper-towel-lined cookie sheet. If you don’t have a wire rack, line a cookie sheet with several thicknesses of paper towels.

Pour oil in a wok or deep skillet to a depth of 1 1/2 inches and heat to 350⁰F. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, test the oil to see if it is hot enough by using tongs to hold a piece of chicken in the oil; it should immediately sizzle and bubble.

Cook a few pieces of chicken at a time; if you add too many at once, the oil temperature will drop below 350⁰F., making the chicken greasy. Cook chicken until golden and crisp, about 1 to 3 minutes.

As chicken is done, remove from pan and drain on prepared wire rack. Test the first piece or two by cutting in half to make sure chicken is cooked through. If chicken is browned but not cooked through inside, lower the heat.

Continue cooking chicken in batches. Before putting each batch into the oil, shake the bag holding the chicken to refresh the coating.

Occasionally, use a skimmer or small strainer to remove brown bits, to keep the oil clean as you cook.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.


  • Potato starch, found in Asian markets or online, makes a light, crisp coating. If you can’t find it, try a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and flour.
  • Mirin is not the same as sake. It has a mildly sweet flavor that is critical to the flavor of this dish. Special Fork has many other recipes that use mirin so, the rest of the bottle will not go to waste.
  • Remember when deep frying, to keep a watch on the oil at all times and be prepared from some splattering.

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Posted: Mar 26th by Sandy_Hu