Easy Nori Chicken
There is an okazuya (lunch shop) in Hilo, Hawaii, that makes the most delicious nori chicken. The chicken is marinated in a soy sauce mixture, wrapped with a strip of nori (the kind of seaweed used in sushi), floured and deep-fried. The flavor combination is sensational.
My recipe is not it.
It’s been two years since I was last in Hilo, so my taste memory is surely faulty. Also, I’m not trying to replicate the dish exactly. My goal is to create a version that’s easy for Special Fork cooks—one that doesn’t require deep frying and that can fit within our 30-minute prep requirement.
I started on this recipe quest one day when I had chicken thighs to cook for dinner. My go-to, easy way out is to season the thighs with salt and pepper, dredge in flour and bake at high heat (400°F) for about 45 minutes. It’s a no-fuss, no-mess way to get dinner on the table. If I have a little more time, I make gravy from the pan juices.
Since I had Hilo on my mind—we’re going there on vacation soon—I thought of that nori chicken and it became my inspiration. Our family liked the result so much, I’ve made this dish a few times since. To keep to a Japanese box lunch theme, I like to serve it with omusubi (rice balls) and carrot kimpira (julienned carrots cooked in slightly sweetened soy sauce).
If you’ve never purchased nori before, don’t be hesitant, wondering what you’ll do with the leftover. I store mine in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag in the freezer, where it will keep indefinitely. The sheets are so thin, they thaw in no time when you’re ready to use them.
The other ingredient you will need is mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake). This will also keep forever, and in our Friday newsletter (you are subscribed, aren’t you?), I’ll give you more easy recipes using mirin, so the rest of that bottle will not go to waste.
Easy Nori Chicken
4 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce
4 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake)
2 tablespoons water
6 chicken thighs
About ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 sheets nori
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin and water. Place chicken thighs in gallon-size, heavy-duty plastic bag with zipper top. Pour soy sauce mixture into the bag and seal. Turn the bag a few times to distribute marinade. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, turning bag a few times while marinating.
Heat oven to 400°F. Spoon flour into a dinner plate. Remove thighs from marinade and add to plate, one at a time, coating lightly with flour on all sides. Place thighs on baking sheet, skin-side up, and bake 40 to 50 minutes until meat thermometer registers 165°F or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.
Remove chicken from oven. Cut nori crosswise into 4 equal strips (you’ll need 1 ½ sheets) using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Carefully (don’t burn your fingers) wrap nori around the middle of each chicken thigh, tucking ends underneath the chicken, using a spatula or fork to get underneath each piece. If there are any dry flour spots on the chicken, brush with pan juices using a pastry brush.
Return chicken to oven for 3 to 5 more minutes to help nori adhere to the chicken.
Remove from oven and serve hot.
Makes 3 servings (2 thighs each).
Next week, I’ll be posting from Hilo, Hawaii, my hometown, where Steve and I will be on vacation. I wish the whole family could be going with us, but of course, we need a house sitters and plant waterers while we’re away. Fortunately, we have very accommodating sons. Aloha!
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