Written by Ilham Rio Baramika
Learn More about "Karaage", the Japanese Take on Fried Chicken
Karaage is a Japanese traditional dish that is often mistaken for fried chicken. Its delicious, distinctive taste and the many varieties are what make the difference. Be sure to taste this dish at least once!
The definition of the word karaage 唐揚げ is debatable. Although it is widely known as a dish closely related to fried chicken, the Japanese separate these two terms as two different kinds of cuisine. Some mention that karaage is not actually referring to the dish itself, but is a term describing the cooking technique used to make the dish. To be honest, either way is fine for the fans of karaage, as long as it tastes good.
The boneless variety of deep fried chicken meat is the general image of karaage in Japan. It is usually thigh meat marinated with soy sauce and dipped in potato starch. The meat stays juicy on the inside while being covered in a crunchy texture. This is the standard version of the karaage chicken.
Photo by Shimada Koji on Flickr
There are several prefectures in Japan proclaiming they have the best karaage variety as their specialty dish. Many areas have invented their very own and unique karaage specialty and then took part in the "B-kyū gourmet grand prix", a famous B rank cuisine competition in Japan. As a result, new varieties of karaage have appeared, and even the varieties of the karaage menu from local restaurants in the same city began to differ from one another. Here are some notable varieties of karaage:
Photo by yoppy on Flickr
Chicken nanban is a variety of karaage originating from Miyazaki prefecture in Kyushu. Because of its popularity you can find Chicken Nanban on the menu of every Japanese food restaurant around Japan. Juicy, boneless deep fried karaage, served with white tartar sauce on top, is the type of Chicken Nanban that is the favorite dish of many people.
Teba shio - Salted Chicken Wings
Photo by Inazakira on Flickr
Even though most of the karaage varieties use boneless chicken as their main ingredient, teba shio is the one type of karaage that uses chicken wings. Deep fried salted chicken wings! Who can resist the temptation to eat the thick meat attached to the bones?
Toriten - Chicken Tempura
Photo by ayustety on Flickr
Originating from Oita prefecture in Kyushu, one of the prefectures that proclaims it is the center of karaage cuisine, this is a unique type of karaage. It is a combination of two different popular dishes - tempura and karaage. "Toriten" is basically marinated boneless chicken dipped in tempura wheat flour, instead of cornstarch. Toriten usually become a side dish or a topping to the main dish. The most common choice is toriten udon - udon noodles with slices of toriten served as topping.
Where to Find Karaage Fried Chicken?
Whether you might believe it or not, in Japan it is really easy to find places that serve karaage on their menu. It is almost as easy as to find a sushi or a ramen restaurant.
Photo by Inazakira on Flickr
Whenever you eat in a family restaurant in Japan, you will most likely find karaage on their menu. It often comes as a set menu, served along with traditional Japanese vegetable salad and miso soup. This is the most common combination for the karaage set menu in the Japanese family restaurants.
Photo by Richard on Flickr
Unlike fried chicken, karaage is often served as an appetizer in izakaya, the Japanese bars, where it is being served with alcohol drinks such as sake or cold beer. It becomes a tasty side dish that will accompany your late night chit-chat at the cozy Japanese traditional bars.
Photo by se7en on Flickr
You can find karaage vendors in almost every city in Japan. Whenever you go to a major sightseeing spot around Japan's large cities, you will most likely find at least one stall selling karaage, strategically located near a station or at the corner of a small street. The best thing about the karaage vendors is that they often sell karaage that will last long enough so that you could bring it back to your hometown as an edible souvenir.
Photo by Norio nakayama on Flickr
Most convenience store chains in Japan also sell karaage as one of their ready to eat dishes. You can usually find it being displayed next to the cashier desk. Cheap, convenient and tasty are the three words that could describe the karaage sold at convenience stores.
Oita Prefecture - the Home of Karaage Culture
Photo by Kzaral on Flickr
Several prefectures in Japan might have karaage as their specialty cuisine. However, it was Oita prefecture that brought karaage to the whole country, turning it into one of the most popular B rank dishes in Japan. There are numerous well-known karaage specialty restaurants and shops spread around the prefecture. Let's not forget that the famous toriten karaage was born in this prefecture.
The many varieties of karaage will most surely satisfy you, so be sure to taste them when visiting Japan.