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Anime and people who watch anime often get a bad rap. Anime fans are often associated with weirdos or basement dwellers. Anime itself is often written off as either childish or too “adult.” Granted, they can be both, and sometimes at the exact same time! Still, every now and then, an anime comes along that sticks some tidbits of knowledge into its plot, whether subtly or shoving it in your face. That is one of my favorite things about animes about food and cooking. Most cooking shows on TV nowadays have devolved into circus sideshows of contests to see how horribly they can mess with cooks and still get them to make something edible. It’s not really about the food anymore, which is a shame.
So, when Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars in English) came along, I was eager to check it out. The story centers around the son of a diner owner that is sent to a highly elite culinary school at the start of his high school career. Given anime’s penchant for making even the most mundane tasks appear epic and grandiose, hilarity ensures. Soma, the titular hero, often creates food so delicious that it elicits borderline NSFW reactions from anyone that eats it. There’s plenty of shots of delicious-looking animated food, amusing gags, and even tentacles (if you’re into that sort of thing). But, most of all, there are loads and loads of recipe ideas and tips. Which brings us to this post…
Towards the end of the first season, our hero is pitted against an evil chicken karaage (fried chicken) franchise that is threatening to put the shopping district where his father’s diner resides out of business. Naturally, it’s up to our plucky hero and his high school friends to save the day for the helpless adult business owners. In order to see what they’re up against, they decide to check out their competitor. In an episode aptly named “Sensual Fried Chicken,” they discover the wonder that is this juicy and tender chicken as the manager gleefully gloats about how awesome her chicken is. After some experimentation, they manage to “defeat” this fried chicken by transforming it into a fried chicken wrap that can be eaten “on the go,” but the flavors of the chicken itself gave them a run for their money.
Watching the reactions to the chicken both made my mouth water and made me want to try making this at home. And, after investing in an extra-fancy deep fryer, I found the perfect excuse to give it a shot. This web page gave me a starting point, and I made a few educated guesses as to the quantities of each ingredients that wound up working very well. I started with making the competitor’s chicken recipe, because it looked less complicated than Soma’s “winning” recipe. The chicken ended up being so good that I don’t think I will ever bother trying the other one. I did tweak it a bit to match my tastes, but it’s still great. My first attempt at this chicken was made using chicken breast, and it was the absolute juiciest chicken breast that I have ever made or eaten. Once I crunched through the crispy exterior, the chicken juices basically danced in my mouth. Since then, I have switched to chicken thighs, but I wouldn’t be against using chicken breast again if that’s the only thing that I could get my hands on.
The marinade is simple to make and doesn’t contain any ingredients that are hard to find. Just throw everything in a blender or food processor and whir until it’s all pulverized.
I used boneless skinless chicken thighs for this. You are welcome to use chicken breast as well. Both will yield tender and juicy results, but I just find that chicken thighs are extra succulent when paired with this marinade. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces (think chicken nugget sized) and place in a plastic freezer bag. Pour the marinade into the bag and shake so that all of the chicken gets covered in the marinade. Refrigerate this for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight.
About 30 minutes prior to frying, remove the marinated chicken from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature. Preheat your fry oil. In a bowl, season your potato starch with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Dredge the chicken pieces on the potato starch. There’s no need to dip them in egg or milk, as the marinade is moist enough to get the starch to cling. So, just roll then in the starch and keep moving.
The frying process is in two parts. You fry them once, then remove them from the oil and let them rest for a few minutes before frying them again. This is the key to an extra-crispy exterior. Note that you don’t need a deep fryer with a basket to make this chicken, as long as wherever you are frying has a way for you to monitor the temperature of the frying oil. No one wants a greasy, soggy crust.
These crunchy and juicy tidbits of chicken are delicious enough to stand on their own, but also pair well with a dipping sauce. Sweet chili garlic dipping sauce is a personal favorite, but don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself!
Who says anime is only for kids!?
Chicken Karaage (AKA Sensual Fried Chicken)
- 1/2 large white onion
- 1/2 medium apple
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 1in piece of fresh ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
- 1-2 cups potato starch (or corn starch)
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a blender or food processor (chop the apple and onion as needed to make it fit) and blend until mostly smooth.
Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces (about 2 inches) and place in a freezer bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use, at least 4 hours.
About 30 minutes prior to frying, remove chicken from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature. Add potato starch to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat frying oil to 375 degrees. Dredge the chicken pieces in the potato starch and fry for 2 minutes. Remove from oil and allow to rest 3-5 minutes, then fry for an additional 2 minutes. Drain on wire rack or paper towels and serve hot.