The Secret to Juicy Karaage

Today, I would like to introduce my new Karaage recipe.

Did you think “another one”? – Do not leave me yet!!

It is not “just another” Karaage recipe. Today, I am revealing my secret how to make your Karaage juicer and tenderer.

The Secret to Juicy Karaage by alittlebitofsoy
Super Juicy Karaage by @alittlebitofsoy

You might have already known a cooking method called “Brining”. In short, brine is salty water, and brining is soaking meat in brine for hours to enhance its tenderness. Apparently it is science. Please see below for more information about brining. https://www.thespruceeats.com/all-about-brining-331490

I have applied this method to my Karaage.

What you have to do is soak your chicken in brine for 15 minutes just before marinating it in your Karaage seasoning. THAT’S IT! That will make your Karaage much more succulent, tender and juicy!!

What is in brine?

My basic brine is simple – water, salt and sugar. Water is to add moisture into the chicken, salt is to help the chicken to absorb the moisture and sugar is to keep the moisture inside.

What is in Karaage Seasoning?

Just to keep it simple, today I introduce the traditional Karaage seasoning – Garlic, Ginger, Soy Sauce, Sake, Mirin and Black Pepper. If you would like something different, try some of my other Karaage recipes (here and here), or you can use your own recipes as well!

By using the brining method, I also figured out that the chicken tends to absorb the seasoning quicker, therefore you do not need to marinate it for long. I say 15 minutes marinating is enough.

Chicken Breast or Chicken Thigh?

Both work! If you like juicer Karaage that is just like the one served in the Japanese Izakaya, go for chicken thigh. If you prefer it to be lighter, go for breast.

Deep-fry or Shallow-fry?

I know deep-frying is the proper way…, but I always shallow-fry… It is just my laziness considering the amount of oil used and having to clean the oil afterwards… So my answer is do deep-fry if you prefer to do it properly. I would also say, if you are like me, do not hesitate to just shallow-fry. I guarantee that it still comes out super tasty.

I really want all of you to try this method next time you make karaage. Even my husband, who is a lontime Karaage fan, got suprised by its tenderness when I served this version.

Hope you like it as much as he does…

Ingredients (Serving 2-4):

600 - 700g of Chicken Breast (about 2 breasts) or Chicken Thigh - cut into 5cm pieces
2.5 Tablespoons of Flour
Oil for Deep-frying or Shallow-frying

For Brine
100ml of Water
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Sugar

For Karaage Seasoning
5g of Ginger - grated or finely chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - grated or finely chopped
1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake
1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce
1/2 Tablespoon of Mirin
1 pinch of Black Pepper
Method: 

Brine Chicken

1. Mix all of the brine ingredients in a large bowl. 

2. Place chicken pieces into the brine. Mix them gently by hand or chopsticks for about a minute, just like massaging the chicken. You will be able to see the brine being absorbed into the chicken while mixing. Marinate them for 15 minutes. 

Marinate Chicken in Seasoning

1. Remove the chicken pieces from the brine. Pat-dry them with paper towels.

2. Place them in a bowl. Add ginger and garlic and mix them gently by hand or chopsticks.

3. Add cooking sake, soy sauce, mirin and black pepper. Mix them gently.

4. Marinate them for 15 minutes. 

Shallow-Frying (or deep-frying if you wish)

1. Place flour on a plate. Coat the chicken pieces with flour evenly and shake the excess flour off. 

2. Heat oil to 160° in a large frying-pan. Place the chicken pieces into the oil. Cook them for 3 minutes. Flip them and cook the other side for about 2 minutes. Please do not touch the chicken except only flipping them. This is to prevent the coating from coming off.  

3. Turn the heat to high (180°) and keep cooking for about 30 seconds to make the outside crispy. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack to remove the excess oil. Serve while hot.  
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Grated Carrot Salad – Carrot Rapee

French Grated Carrot Salad (Carrot Rapee) by a little bit of soy

It is cheap and versatile. These are the reasons why a bag of carrots is always in my fridge. I probably cook carrot every day. I put it in soup, simmer it in stew, stir-fry it with Asian sauce and just cut it as a veggie stick… For me, it is a kind of vegetable which is always there, therefore I do not pay much attention to.

However, today, I would like to introduce a salad featuring carrot, my French Grated Carrot Salad – Carrot Rapee.

In this salad, carrot beautifully plays a leading role. The orange colour look really vibrant on a table. The well balanced dressing is so right with the carrot’s earthy flavour. A secret is definitely cumin powder, which gives a bit of excitement to the salad.

If you would like to make it a little bit fancier, add some walnuts, cranberries or Italian parsley (all of them or some of them – as you like!).

This grated carrot salad is really easy to make, looks great and is tasty to eat. Hope this colourful salad makes your table brighter…

 Ingredients: 
2-3 Carrots

<Dressing>
1 Teaspoon of Honey
1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
50ml of Lemon Juice
100ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Teaspoon of Cumin Powder

<Optional>
2 handfuls of Walnuts
A handful of Dried Cranberries
A handful of fresh Italian Parsley - chopped 
Method:

1. Grate carrots. 

2. Make dressing. Combine all of the ingredients until it is homogenised. 

3. Pour the dressing over the carrots and combine. If you would like to make the salad fancier, add your choice of the optional. 

Japanese Candied Sweet Potato Chips – Be Careful! Cannot Stop eating!

Daigaku Imo – Japanese Candied Sweet Potato Chips by a little bit of soy

When I was still a high school student, there was this shop that specialised in Japanese Candied Sweet Potato Chips on the street in Namba (one of the city centres in Osaka). Although there was always a long queue, I did not mind waiting as I loved watching the sweet potatoes cooked in a big frying-pan with super hot oil and coated in sticky candy. The sugar-coated sweet potato chips were golden and shiny. The outside was crunchy, and the inside was soft and flaky. Off course, they were SWEET! They were a perfect street snack for us – young high school girls.

Japanese Candied Sweet Potato is called Daigaku Imo in Japan, whose direct translation is “University Potato”. This is one of my most missed Japanese snacks.

First, I wanted to replicate the Namba shop’s, but soon I realised it was too hard to do so with our week electric stove. In addition, I always feel guilty using that much oil…

Another thing that I found it difficult to achieve was to make the candy crispy. I know some people like it soft (that’s also nice), but in my memory, the Namba shop’s chips were super crunchy, and that was why I loved theirs so much.

After some research and several trials (which included eating so much sugary sweet potato ships, OMG!), I finally found the way.

In this recipe, you can just pan-fry sweet potato with a small amount of oil, instead of deep-frying. To achieve the crunchiness of the candy, I use “Icy Cold Water” to harden the candy.

The ingredients are so simple, but there are some keys to make this recipe a success.

Key Notes:

  1. Use purple skin sweet potato, which is firmer than the orange one.
  2. Pat-dry sweet potato very well.
  3. Lie the chips in single layer in a frying-pan.
  4. Do not touch the chips while pan-frying (touch only once when flipping the chips).
  5. Candy mixture – Wait until the caramel becomes golden brown.

It is not difficult to make this. In fact, you can make this anytime you feel like it. Just remember the key notes to receive the best result of this recipe.

I have to say, this is a really dangerous snack… Once you start, you cannot stop. Sweet, Crunchy, Flaky… Well…, at least sweet potatoes are a vegetable, aren’t they?!

Ingredients: 
250g of Purple Skinned Sweet Potatoes
1 Tablespoon of Oil
2.5 Tablespoons of Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Water
1 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce
2 Teaspoon of Sesame Seeds

<What to be read>
Cold Water with some Ice Cubes in a bowl
Method: 

1. Preparation for sweet potato. Cut sweet potato into 1cm thick/width of finger-sized chips, leaving the skin on. Soak them in water (not included in the ingredients' list above) for about 15 minutes. This method is to remove the harsh taste of sweet potato. Pat-dry the sweet potato chips very well with paper towels. 

2. Place the sweet potato chips in a frying-pan and toss with oil. Lie the chips flat in single layer. If you are using a small frying-pan and cannot lie all of the chips in a single layer, I would recommend using 2 frying-pans. Place the frying-pan over a medium-high heat. Once the oil gets hot and starts making some "cooking" sounds, turn the heat to low-medium. Keep cooking for about 5 minutes each side, or until both sides become nicely browned. Do not touch often! Just flip over the chips once while cooking. Once they are cooked, transfer them to a plate.  

3. Now we make the candy mixture. Wipe the remaining oil from the frying-pan with paper towels. Place sugar and water. Heat it over a medium heat. When the mixture has become golden and started to caramelised (it will take about 5 minutes), add soy sauce gently from the edge of the frying-pan, and then add the sweet potato chips. Toss the chips to coat in the candy. 

4. Make icy cold water with some ice cubes ready in a bowl. Pick up the candy-coated chip one by one with either a tong or chopsticks and dip it into the cold water for 3 seconds. Shake the excess water off from the chip and transfer it to a plate. Continue the process. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the chips to serve. 

I recommend serving them straight away while the caramel is crispy. 

Healthy! My Easy Laksa Soup – without paste, without oil!

Healthy Easy Laksa by alittlebitofsoy

I love Laksa. Hot, Creamy and Rich… It is perfect for the cold weather as well as the hot sweaty summer. I love the fact that there are so many different varieties across Southeast Asia. It is fun to compare each Laksa in each region/country.

There are a few places that serve Laksa in Perth as well. Some are pretty good, some are not so good. What I have realised is they are quite often too oily for me. I am sure that the richness and creaminess can be achieved without this oil floating on the surface of the beautiful yellow soup…

So! I made my version of Laksa by keeping only what I like.

Difficult? NONONO! My recipes are never difficult!

My easy Laksa is:

  • No store-bought Laksa paste required
  • No need to make Laksa paste separately
  • No stock required
  • Not oily at all as no oil is used

Most of the ingredients (except cooking sake or white wine) should be found at the normal supermarket, therefore you can make it at home easily!

Most important tip for this Laksa recipe is how to cook the vegetables. I use a cooking method called “Mushi-yaki” in Japanese (or “Etuver” in French), where you cook the ingredients while they are steaming in their own juice. All you need to do is add salt to the vegetables and keep cooking on a low heat. That is all. This method is a wonderfully easy way to bring out the flavour of each ingredient. It is almost like making vegetable stock instantly in the pot.

This Laksa is one of my regular dinner repertoires, and my husband loves it too. Hope you add my Easy Laksa onto your regular menu and enjoy it as much as we do 🙂

Ingredients (Serving for 4)

For Chicken
1 piece of Chicken Breast (300g-330g) - cut into small pieces
1/2 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake or White Wine
1/2 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce
A pinch of Sea Salt

For Vegetables (There are just some examples. You can use any veggies left in your fridge!)
1 Onion - sliced
1 Carrot - diced
1 Capsicum - diced
3 heads of Bok Choy - roughly chopped
300g of Cabbage

Ingredients A
1 Tablespoon of ground Turmeric
1/2 Tablespoon of ground Coriander 
1/2 Tablespoon of Galam Masala
1 Teaspoon of ground Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt
3 cloves of Garlic - finely chopped
20g of Ginger - julienne
1 Red Chili (or your choice of chili) - chopped

Ingredients B
900ml of Water
1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake (or White Wine)
1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt
1 Bay Leaf - bend into half

Ingredients C
270ml of Coconut Cream
1 Teaspoon of Fish Sauce
1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

Topping
Fresh Coriander - chopped (as much as you like)
Method:

1. For Chicken, combine the chicken and all of the other ingredients in a small bowl. Put it aside. 

2. In a large pot, place all of the vegetables and 'Ingredients A', and combine them all together. Make sure that the vegetables are nicely coated with the spiced. 

3. Place the pot over a low heat with a lid on. As juice from the vegetables comes out, let them cook in their own juice. If the spices have started burning on the bottom of the pot, add 1 tablespoon of water into the pot. Stir occasionally. Keep cooking for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables become soft and tender. 

4. Once the vegetables become soft and tender, add the chicken including liquid (from Method 1) and ' Ingredient B' into the pot. Increase the heat to medium. Once the soup has started evaporating, reduce the heat to low and simmer it for about 20 minutes. 

5. Taste the soup and season it with sea salt if necessary. Turn the heat off. Add all of 'Ingredients C' into the pot and stir well. 

6. Top with fresh coriander and serve it while hot. 

Traditional Japanese Cooking : Simmered Sardines with Ginger

Fremantle Sardines in Japanese Way !

Raw = Fresh

It is my food formula. When you think about Tsukiji Fish Market, you can see where my idea comes from. For this reason, I feel really strange to see a lot of fish shops in this city selling frozen fish.

We buy our favourite New Zealand King Salmon from this fish monger. His NZ King Salmon is always beautiful, sashimi-grade and “freshly raw”. On the other hand, he also sells frozen seafood – even his oysters are frozen. One day he told me his belief. He believes freezing seafood straight away on the boat is the best way to keep the freshness. Ummm… OK…

When we visited him to pick up the beautiful raw salmon the other day, we found Fremantle Sardines sold at a reasonable price (not $3 each like other shops!!). Frozen, of course. According to him, they were “freshly frozen”.

Sardines are one of my favourites…, but I have never seen frozen sardines (except bait)… By the way, is “freshly frozen” a possible term?

When he say disapproval on my face, he threw a few of these frozen Fremantle sardines into my bag, saying “I supply them to most of the high-end restaurants in Perth”.

Verdict?

I had to rush back to him for a kilo of them.

Of course, you do not eat them raw (especially when it comes to sardines which are commonly known as perishable fish. Even we eat them raw only a the trusted restaurant). However, they were fresh. Yes, they are “freshly frozen”. Although my “fresh” and his “fresh” might be slightly different, I must admit that it is possible, and he knows what he is doing with fish!

SO!!! I am really excited to be able to add sardines to my regular repertoire.

As my first sardine recipe on this blog, I chose this traditional Japanese dish called “Iwashi no Shoga ni” – Simmered Sardines with Ginger.

This is sardines simmered in sake, soy sauce and mirin (called Japanese Three Sacred Treasures by me!) with ginger. Ginger gives a freshness and sweetness to the dish and matches with the unique and strong flavour of sardines.

The key of this dish is to use “fresh” sardines, either raw or frozen, whichever are available!

I really feel like home when I eat this sardine dish with Japanese rice (aka my precious)… This is so Japanese… If you miss Japanese home cooking like me, please try this recipe. I guarantee you will feel like you are in Japan.

Ingredients:
6 Sardines (if you use frozen sardines, defrost them in the fridge)
10g of Ginger - cut into julianne

For Simmering Sauce
150ml of Water
50ml of Cooking Sake
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Mirin
How to Clean Sardines

1. Under gently running cold water, rinse the sardines and scrape off the scales with a knife.

2. Cut off the heads.

3. Cut an incision along the belly. Remove the guts from the opened belly. 

4. Wash both inside and outside of the sardine under gently running cold water and pat dry. 
Method: 

1. In a small/ medium size pan, in which the sardine can fit perfectly, put all ingredients for the simmering sauce and half of the ginger. Bring it to boil.  

2. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to medium/low. Lay the sardines in the pot. Cover with a *drop lid (Otoshi-buta) and simmer for about 10 minutes.  

3. Remove the drop lid and add the remaining ginger. Put the drop lid back on and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

4. Turn the heat off and let it stand for about 3-5 minutes to cool them down slightly (so that it is easier to lift the sardines up without breaking the meat). Plate sardines up with some ginger and sauce while warm. 
*Otoshi-buta (drop lid) 

Otoshi-buta is a lid which is smaller than the dimension of the saucepan. The lid floats on top of the liquid in a pan. Otoshi-buta helps heat to be distributed and flavour to be observed into each ingredient evenly. It also assists ingredients with holding in the position, so that they can keep their shapes. 

Otoshi-buta is commonly made by wood, but if you do not have one, you can substitute it with aluminium foil or baking paper.

<How to make Otoshi-buta with aluminium foil or baking paper> 

Cut aluminium foil that covers a saucepan that you are using. Make a circle shape by tucking the edge, so that it can be fit inside of the saucepan. Make a cross incision in the middle that will work as a vent during simmering.

The Easiest Ever – Simplified Easy Ponzu Dressing

If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, I am sure that you have heard of this sauce called “Ponzu”.

Easy Ponzu Dressing _ a little bit of soy

Ponzu, which is a citrus based sauce, is commonly used in Japan as a condiment. How common? It is REALLY common.

Ponzu is tangy, fresh and yet quit round. In my opinion, it goes well with everything! AS a condiment, you can use it on a light flavoured dish (e.g. Salad, Tofu, Nabe Hot Pot) to give a bit of excitement, or you can use it for fatty proteins (e.g. fatty salmon, beef steak) to give a bit of refreshment.

The Standard recipe of Ponzu sauce is combine Soy Sauce and your favourite citrus (Yuzu and Sudachi Citrus are common in Japan), and then soak a piece of dried kelp and bonito flakes in the juice to make the sauce softer and sweeter. It is ready to use after resting it in the fridge from overnight to a week.

Today, I would like to introduce my super easy version of it.

Here we are in Australia in the busy environment. If you are like me, do you feel that you cannot be bothered searching for some special Japanese ingredients and waiting for another day to taste it?

In this Ponzu recipe, I made it as Ponzu “dressing” rather than “sauce”, therefore, it is still good to use on the day it’s made. Of course you can make a big volume and store it in the fridge too, just like a normal Ponzu recipe.

I use Lime here, but if you wish, you can mix with lemons and/or oranges and make your own citrus flavour!

If you would like to use up your citrus from your garden and/or try something different on your salad, please try this ponzu dressing. Hope you like it.

Ingredients:

150ml Lime Juice
50ml Soy Sauce
2.5g Dried Bonito Flakes (Japanese Katsuo bushi)
Method: 

Mix all ingredients
You can use it straight away or it can be stored in the fridge for a week to make it rounder. 
My easy Ponzu on Salad – a little bit of soy

Delicious! Salmon Mizore-ni (Salmon with Grated Daikon Radish) + about store-bought Dashi Stock

Salmon Mizore-ni (Salmon with grated daikon radish) – a little bit of soy

Even though I do not like cold weather, I have a few things to look forward to in winter, such as Riccaldo Banfi long boots, Cue grey wool coat, Hot Cocoa, Hojicha Latte, mulled wine etc…

And… (It maybe sounds a bit funny but!), Daikon Radish is one of them.

You might see Daikon Radish throughout the year, but Daikon in winter is much sweeter. I enjoy it raw, in soup, simmered, stir-fried… in any form really! I love its juiciness, freshness, sweetness, crunchiness…, I just love everything about daikon.

In today’s recipe, my daikon is “grated”. After pan-frying salmon, I simmer it in the grated daikon sauce. Fatty & flavoursome salmon cooked in sweet & fresh daikon radish melting in Japanese Dashi stock. It sounds very Japanese hey? Yes, it is very Japanese and is very delicious!

This dish is called “Mizore-ni”. “Mizore” means “Sleet” and “Ni” means “simmered” in Japanese. Grated daikon looks like sleet, therefore, dishes using it is are called so.

I think it is quite a pretty name…

As it is really delicious I want many people to cook this recipe (or any of my Japanese recipes really), I would just like to talk about Japanese Dashi Stock here a bit.

You might feel a bit foreign about Dashi Stock, which I definitely think is one of the key ingredients in Japanese cooking. I introduced my Awase Dashi recipe here. It would be wonderful if you are keen to make it. But, if not, please do not hesitate to use store-bought dashi stock powder. I use it really really often! I even use it as a substitute for chicken and vegetable stock when I cook non-Japanese food.

If you are sensitive about food additives, go for “additive-free” ” All Natural” (無添加)or “MSG free” (化学調味料不使用).

They are available at any Asian/Japanese supermarkets.

If you are happy to go for something super good but a bit pricey, this is the brand I like ( https://usa.kayanoya.com/ ). I am not actually sure if you can find it in Australia… but if you see this brand, go ahead!

Hope this information encourages you to cook this recipe – Salmon Mizore-ni. I guarantee it is delicious!

Ingredients (Serving for 2)

For Salmon

2 fillets of Salmon (about 350g - 380g in total) - skin off and cut into 3cm cubes

2 pinches of Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon of Plain Flour (or your choice of your flour)

For "Mizore" Daikon Sauce

300g Daikon Radish - grated

100ml Dashi Stock (or 100ml Water + 1/2 Teaspoon of Japanese Dashi Powder)

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

1 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce

Chopped Spring Onions as a garnish
Method: 

1. Sprinkle sea salt over salmon fillets and wrap the salmon with paper towel. Leave it for about 20 minutes. This is a good method to remove excess water from the salmon, which contains the fishy smell. 

2. Heat a frying-pan with 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (not included in the ingredients' list above). Coat the salmon with plain flour. Pan-fry the salmon until both sides becomes nicely browned.  

3. Remove the salmon from the frying pan. Wipe and remove the excess oil from the frying pan. Add grated daikon (including the liquid), dashi stock, cooking sake and soy sauce into the same frying pan. Bring it to the boil. 

4. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to medium/low and add the salmon into the sauce. Simmer it for about 1 minute. Plate the salmon with the grated daikon sauce. Top with chopped spring onion to serve.