Cooking with my Mama – Chicken Karaage

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My mom makes the best chicken karaage I’ve ever tasted.  That’s a huge  statement considering I use chicken karaage as one of the benchmarks when I visit Japanese restaurants, and I’ve eaten at a lot of Japanese restaurants in my lifetime.  And while I’ve had really good chicken karaage in restaurants, but my mom’s is always better.  When I try to describe my mom’s karaage to others, I tell the story that she took the secrets from all the cooks at the many Japanese restaurants she worked at over the years and perfected her own recipe.

When I approached my mom about teaching me how to make her chicken karaage, she said no problem.  When she realized she’d have to slow her process down in order to figure out temperatures and measurements, I think she was less happy, but still gung-ho.  When my siblings and friends found out that I was going to post her recipe, everyone was very surprised that my mom was ok with sharing her secret karaage recipe with others.  But then I remembered something I read in Nobu’s first cookbook, which seemed to fit the sitution.

“Some friends have questioned the wisdom of making these recipes accesible to the general public.  They think perhaps that my business could be damaged in some way by revealing professional secrets.  But cooking isn’t like that.  Food is imbued with the feelings and personality of the cook. Even if you were to follow my instructions faithfully, using precise amounts of identical ingredients.  I am quite sure you would never be able to perfectly recreate the same flavors and textures that I make.  For I always put something special in my food-my heart, or Kokoro as we say in Japanese- and you, of course must put your own heart into your cooking.” – Nobu Matsuhisa from Nobu the Cookbook

If you know my mom, then you know how big a heart she has and couple that with her passion for food, she has nothing to worry about.

Mama Bando’s Chicken Karaage

  • 1.6kg of chicken wings (18 wings), cut into segments
  • ¼ cup + 1tbsp shoyu (soy sauce) – my mom uses Yamasa brand
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp tempura powder
  • canola & olive oil for frying
The soy sauce should coat the chicken and leave a little pool at the bottom. My mom kept stressing the pool of shoyu, because that's how you know you've added enough.

Add shoyu and mix in  the black pepper and garlic powder.  Marinate for at least 1 hour, (but up to 8 hours).  What no fresh garlic, ginger or mirin? The recipes I’ve seen have had all 3 of these.  Not in my mom’s secret recipe though!

Corn starch with a little bit of tempura powder. Don't ask what the tempura powder's for or what's in it. It just makes it better, 'nuf said.

Add the corn starch/tempura powder to the marinated chicken.  Stir to coat all of the pieces.

Fry in a mixture of canola and olive oil (3:1) until the ends of the bones start to show.

My mom open pot fries, (which I’m deathly afraid of and the reason why I’ve never asked her to show me this recipe sooner).  The oil is hot enough when you put the chicken in and it sinks to the bottom before it floats, (around 340 degrees).  Be careful not to fill the pot more than half full with oil.  Fry for a few minutes and then flip the pieces.  Fry for a few minutes more, (around 6 min total).

Eat while piping hot for maximum deliciousness.

5 Replies to “Cooking with my Mama – Chicken Karaage”

  1. This is the best chicken karaage I’ve ever had! Got to be careful not to burn your mouth! Love the recipe. Thank your mom for sharing it.

  2. mmmm looks like you fried them just right! Thinking of braving it myself at home but I’m not sure about the open pot method – that scares me as well. Thanks for getting the recipe from mom!! will report back once I try on my own.

  3. Mmmm, you did it! I’m thinking about making them right now and it’s 1:15 in the morning!
    They look great, oh how I wish I still lived in Vancouver!

  4. i thought mama bando’s secret weapon was her rice balls. i see she has more than one weapon! can you make this for the wrap up…PLS?!!

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