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. 

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.

Low-carb! Cauliflower Cheese with Tofu Miso Creamy Sauce

I occasionally crave gratin. I love the combination of bechamel sauce and cheese melting all together. I love the look in the oven – the bubbling sauce and golden surface…. Yum Yum Yum.

However…, gratin is not certainly suitable when you are on a diet…, I know…, but I still feel like it.

So! I made this recipe.

Cauliflower Cheese with Tofu Miso Creamy Sauce

In this recipe, I made white sauce out of Silken Tofu. The key is to remove the tofu’s unique smell (see the method below) and mix the tofu until it becomes super smooth. I added Miso, which gives a richness and depth to the delicate tofu.

This was actually one of my experimental recipes, but it came out really good on the first trial. This is a keeper, definitely!

This Tofu Miso Creamy Sauce is suitable for a gluten free diet as well.

When you are on a diet and sick of salad and soup, try this low-carb cauliflower cheese!
Hope you like it.

Ingredients (Serving 3-4)
600g of Cauliflower - cut into medium-sized florets
1 Onion - sliced
3 teaspoons of Olive Oil
A pinch of Sea Salt
60g of Parmesan Cheese - shredded

For Tofu Miso Creamy Sauce
300g of Silken Tofu
2 tablespoons of Milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of Miso (I use Shinshu Miso)
1/2 teaspoon of Soy Sauce
A pinch of Sea Salt for seasoning
Method: 
1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. Firstly we make Tofu Miso Cream. Wrap tofu with 2-3 layers of paper towels and microwave it for 2 minutes.
Remove it from the microwave and place a flat plate or a light chopping board on top of the tofu. Do not unwrap the paper towels.
Leave it for about 5 minutes. This is a good method to remove the excess water from tofu, which contains tofu's unique smell.

3. Place all the ingredients of Tofu Miso Cream (except sea salt), and combine well well until it becomes homogenised and smooth. You can use a electric mixer if you wish.

4. Taste the tofu miso creamy sauce and add a pinch of sea salt as necessary. Put it aside

5. Place cauliflower and onion in a baking tray. Coat them with olive oil and sea salt evenly.

6. Pour the Tofu Miso Cream over the cauliflower and put Parmesan cheese on top.

7. Bake it for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked and the cheese becomes golden. Serve while hot.

Bocconcini Salad with Strawberry Dressing

At this moment, I do not have access to my pots, pans or to my pantry as we are currently in temporary accommodation. What I have is only some essential things such as soy sauce (of course!!), dashi powder, cooking sake and sugar, which I think allows me to cook decent things.

And…, my boss (the kind one) gave me a packet of Shio Koji.

As I have written about it in my blog previously, Shio Koji is one of my “super foods” – which is not only for its nutrition but also for its versatility (please see here for more detail).

That made me cook something different from the usual suspects, and even allowed me to come up with this new salad idea!

This strawberry dressing is a little bit sweet as well as a little bit savoury – as the result of a touch of Shio Koji. It is a perfect salad for hot summer days!

Since Shio Koji can be purchased in the Japanese shops in Perth, I assume that it can be found in other cities. If you have a chance to find it, I recommend you to get and try it 🙂

Ingredient: 
For Salad
200g Salad Leaves
210g Traditional Bocconcini- cut into 4
1 Lebanese Cucumber -diced
1/2 Onion - finely chopped

For Strawberry Dressing
250g Strawberries - washed and hulled
1/2 tablespoon of Shio Koji
1/2 tablespoon of Sugar
1/2 tablespoon of Lemon

Method :
For Strawberry Dressing
1. Place all of the ingredients for dressing in a small pot. Heat the pot over medium heat with the lid on. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to low.

2. Keep cooking for about 15 minutes or until the strawberries become very soft, while stirring and mashing the strawberries occasionally.

3. Remove it from the heat. Place the dressing in a clean container and cool it down in the fridge.

For Salad
In a salad bowl or plate, place salad leaves, bocconcini, cucumber and onions nicely. Just before serving, pour the strawberry dressing over the salad.

Healthy! Super Moist Boiled Chicken with Peanut Sauce

Boiling is a super healthy way to cook chicken breast, but how long do you boil the chicken?

Of course you can boil it until the chicken is dead. However, in my opinion, it is super dry to eat…. well still edible, I guess….

Today, I would like to introduce my way of boiling chicken. I boil it only for 2 minutes and then just leave it for for 1 hour. Technically the chicken will be cooked in the residual heat. I found this way makes the chicken super moist!

Boiled Chicken a little bit of soy
Healthy! Super Moist Boiled Chicken with Peanut Sauce

I would also like to introduce my peanut butter sauce to go with my super moist boiled chicken. I created it, just because I had a leftover peanut butter in the kitchen…( Well, I believe I am not the only one who has it after trying to make satay chicken?). However, it came out great!

This boiled chicken is super versatile. You can use it for salad, sandwich or you can enjoy it with a lot of different sauces. Furthermore, it is super healthy!

Hope you like it and add it onto your regular menu…. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 Chicken Breast – skinless and boneless

2 pinches of Sea Salt for Chicken Breast

800 ml of Water

2/3 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon of White Wine or Cooking Sake

For Peanut Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Peanut Butter – no added sugar

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

1/2 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Teaspoon of Dark Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

1 Tablespoon of Chicken Broth left over after boiling chicken

Coriander  – chopped for topping

Method: 

  1. Sprinkle 2 pinches of sea salt over chicken breast. Wrap the chicken with paper towels.  Leave it for about 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Bring water to a boil and add sea salt and white wine. Place the chicken breast into the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. Keep cooking for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off.  Put a lid on. Leave it for minimum 1 hour.
  3. Making peanut sauce. Place peanut butter, lemon juice, soy sauce, dark sugar and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix all together. Pour the remaining chicken broth from the boiled chicken to make the sauce to the consistency of your liking.
  4. Slice the boiled chicken and arrange it on the serving plate. Serve it with the peanut sauce and chopped coriander on top.

The remaining chicken broth is full of flavor, so do not throw it away! I normally use it to make soup!