Karaage - Japanese Fried Chicken
For the longest time, my karaage (唐揚げ) would lose its crisp after 5 minutes and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make them juicy yet crispy even after it sits for 30 minutes. Of course, ideally you eat fried food straight out of the fryer. But it's something I like to make when I have company because it's a crowd pleaser and I prefer not to deep fry just for a family of 2.
After many trials, I've finally found a recipe that creates the juiciest and crispiest flavor bomb fried chicken (I've eaten a lot of fried chicken over the last 2 months, better detox now). The two tricks that are a must: double frying and wet batter. The fried chicken is heavily seasoned with its marinade so that it complements a bowl of white rice (remember in Asian cuisine you do not season the rice to balance out the strong flavors of the other dishes).
First, marinate chicken thighs. Please don't use breast meat. The breast is easy to overcook and will get dry. You're already frying, let's do it right. Smother your chicken in some delicious marinade. Typically karaage is made with just soy sauce and sake but I like to add some tobanjan (Chinese chili bean sauce) and oyster sauce to up the flavor profile. If you don't have tobanjan or oyster sauce, feel free to replace it with soy sauce in the recipe. It will still be delicious. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Longer is not better.
After the marination period, drain off 75% of the liquid. You want some left over for the wet batter which will result in super crispy fried chicken.
This part gets a bit messy. Mix in the potato starch gradually so that all the chicken bites get coated in the starched up marinade. I use my hands because I don't mind touching raw chicken and hands are your best tools in the kitchen, but you could use tongs if there's an ick factor for you. I added the potato starch in rounds while mixing the chicken to get an even coating. You do not want any dry potato starch because that will not crisp up. Once that's done, you're ready for frying!
Your oil should be around 340°F (170°C) degrees before you start your first batch of frying. Putting in cold chicken into the fryer oil will lower the temperature so we aim higher than the desired 320°F (160°C). Place your chicken in carefully, do not drop them into the hot oil! If the temperature is right, you should see lots of bubbles like the picture above when you put in the chicken. Fry the bites for 3 minutes and let it rest on a rack for another 3 minutes. Work in batches as to not overcrowd the pot (if you do have to do multiple batches, make sure the oil has time to come up to 340°F (170°C) degrees in between rounds). I like to use a dutch oven when frying because it retains the heat better than regular pots. The higher sides prevent splashing of oil.
Once all the chicken has gone through the first frying and rested, raise the temperature of the oil to 375°F (190°C) for some high heat frying. There's less temperature drop in this round because the chicken is already hot. Be very careful at this temperature because there will be more oil splatters and the marinade will burn quickly. Remove the chicken after 30 seconds to 1 minute of frying in high heat (enough to crisp up the skin) and let it rest on the rack once more. When it's cooled down enough to eat, serve with bowls of white rice and enjoy!
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