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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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.

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.  

My mum’s Recipe : Anko – Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste

My memory of Japanese sweets is my mum’s homemade Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste).  Well…, it is not exactly the anko itself…. It is more like my mum and my sister.

They love anko. They sometimes had this sudden craving for anko (and I do not know why, but this happened always at night), and the next day, my mum would make it. When they ate it, they looked super happy… The homemade anko must have had some sort of magical power to make these 2 powerful Osaka ladies (especially if you know them…, you know what I mean) calm and speechless…

On the other hand, I have never been a big fan of Anko…. Somehow, I felt it was too sweet….That’s why I had never made it before. However, as I became older, I started missing the sweet anko – age does funny thing to humans!

So here it is! I recreated my mum’s happy Anko. As always, she gave me the instructions and tips  (well, of course she does not know the measurement…). I think it is quite good.

Anko Red Bean Paste 1 a little bit of soy

I made Dorayaki (Red Bean Pancake) by using this anko this time. You can use if for anything else – such as Zensai (Sweet Red Bean Soup), Daifuku (mochi rice cake filled with anko), or even western style sweets (cupcakes and pound cakes will be good!).

It takes time to make, but it is easy. Try it when you have time!

Ingredients:

220g Azuki Red Beans

1200ml of Water

140g of Caster Sugar

1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

Method: 

  1. Soak Azuki red beans overnight (15 – 20 hours).
  2. Rinse the azuki red beans.
  3. Place the azuki red beans and 1200ml water into a big pot. Bring it to the boil. Once it is boiled, turn the heat to low. Skim the scum off the top.  Keep cooking over low heat for about 1 hour or until the azuki red beans become soft and tender.
  4. Add caster sugar and sea salt into the pot. Keep simmering until the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 1 – 1.5 hours.
  5. Once the liquid is evaporated, mix and mash the azuki red beans to the consistency of your liking. Cool it down to use. You can wrap and freeze the anko if you are not planing to use it straight away.

This is Dorataki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake Sandwich). I used this recipe.

http://www.ntv.co.jp/3min/recipe/20100923.html

Dorayaki_Anko_A little bit of soy

The Easiest Ever Japanese – Nasu Dengaku (Miso Glazed Eggplant)

I would like to introduce my 2nd Easiest Ever Japanese recipe – Nasu Dengaku, which is known as Miso Glazed Eggplant.

Nasu Dengaku a little bit of soy
Juicy! Nasu Dengaku.

Again there is nothing difficult involved in this recipe, basically all you have to do is make miso sauce (by just mixing) and bake eggplant. Ingredients are common Japanese ones which you might already have in your pantry, otherwise can be obtained easily from the shop.

The baked eggplant will be super tender and melting in your month with the sweet and salty miso glaze. It is delicious!

This is another good recipe if you are not familiar with cooking Japanese.  Hope you like it 🙂

Ingredients (serving 2)

1 big Eggplant – about 500g

2 teaspoon of Sesame Oil

Sesame Seeds for topping

For Dengaku Sauce

1 tablespoon of Miso

1 tablespoon of Sugar

1/2 tablespoon of Cooking Sake

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the flesh (almost to the skin) around the inner edge of the skin about 5mm in, and then score the same diagonally inside in small squares (see photo).

    Nasu Dengaku step by step
    Nasu Dengaku How to score eggplant flash

  3. Put sesame oil on the surfaces of the eggplant. Place the eggplant facing up on a baking tray. Bake it for about 30 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked and juicy.
  4. In the mean time, mix all ingredients for dengaku sauce
  5. Take out the eggplant from the oven.  Glaze the eggplant with the dengaku sauce. Turn the oven to 220 °C. Bake the eggplant for another 8-10 minutes.
  6. Take it out from the oven. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serve while hot.