I spent my early years in Japan and like all children, I loved finger foods. One of my favorites was Chicken Karage or basically Japanese Chicken Nuggets. When my kids were growing up, it was a snack I made for them too. Yesterday, for Mother's Day, my son and I made them again for the first time in a long time and we still think it is a great treat! Basically, it involves marinating cut up boneless, skinless thigh pieces of chicken in a marinade of Soy Sauce, Mirin and ginger. I use chicken thighs because they are more juicy and if you want to reheat them, they don't dry out as easily, but you can certainly substitute chicken breasts instead. Then there are two ways of making them. The first is to drain off the excess marinade and then add egg white and cornstarch to the mixture and deep fry the pieces. The other way is to remove each piece and dip into cornstarch or rice flour before frying. The second way makes the chicken more crispy, but the first way is more traditional. Either way, these little fried chicken bites taste great - I don't fry food very often, but in this case it is worth it! Just make sure that the oil is very hot so they cook quickly. I served them with a drizzle of Katsu Sauce and sprinkled with Sesame Seeds and Green Onion. You can also serve them with a dipping sauce like a thick Terriyaki Sauce. However, if you want to keep this dish Gluten Free, make your own sauce using Tamari. Chicken Karage is a dish you could make ahead for a party and just reheat in the oven before garnishing them. Believe me, they will go fast!
Japanese Fried Chicken - Chicken Karage
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 6 equal sized pieces
¼ cup Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
¼ cup Mirin (can also Shaoshing Rice Wine)
1 1/2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, sliced (no need to peel)1/3 cup Cornstarch + 1 egg white
or 1 cup of cornstarch to dip and coat pieces in (can also use Rice Flour)
High Heat Safflower Oil for Frying - enough to fill pot about 2 inches deep
2 -3 green cut green onion tops
1/4 cup Katsu or Terriyaki Sauce (make your own with Tamari if need a gluten free sauce)
1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds
Marinate chicken in Tamari, Mirin, Ginger mixture for at least 20 minutes up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to fry, heat the oil in a deep pot (I used a cast iron one) until it starts smoking. Turn oven on to 250 degrees. Meanwhile, pull out Ginger Pieces and add Cornstarch and egg white and mix in thoroughly. Test one piece and cook until golden brown and remove with a wire mesh or slotted spoon. Then cut open to see if it is no longer pink. If not, cook some more and check to see what color the crust is to continue cooking the rest of the pieces in batches. When each batch is done, place on paper towel lined cookie tray in the oven and keep warm until all are done.
Or, put cornstarch (or rice flour) into a large Ziploc bag. When ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the marinade and put it into the cornstarch. Seal bag and toss to coat. Put into hot oil and cook until golden brown. Drain on a paper-towel covered tray and place in a warm oven (250 degrees) until all are done.Put on a plate and drizzle with Katsu or Terriyaki Sauce. Sprinkle with green onion tops and Sesame Seeds.
Five Element Analysis
Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and frying is a Fire Method of Cooking so those elements are covered. More fire is added by the Mirin. The Metal Element is represented by the Cornstarch and green onion garnish and the Water Element is brought in by the Tamari, Sesame Seeds, Katsu Sauce or Terriyaki Sauce along with the Earth Element as these sauces are sweet and the ginger brings in even more. Guess what? This is a balanced little snack!