It's been months since I've traveled to Tokyo, and I still think about the food there. When I was visiting the Inari Shrine in Kyoto, I was amazed at the endless amount of food stands. They offered everything from mochi to okonomiyaki to the best karaage I've ever had. The dark chicken was seasoned and perfectly fried. Every karaage dish in the United States comes with a dipping sauce but this chicken did not need extra sauce. Since I know I won't be able to replicate this appetizer, I decided to make my own spin on the classic karaage - a Thai spin. Thai chilies, fresh herbs, and Thai chili sauce come into the mix and make this Thai chicken karaage a little sweet, a little spicy but still moist and so flavorful!
Thai Chicken Karaage
- 2 lbs chicken thigh boneless, skinless, cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 Thai chili finely chopped
- ½ cup sweet Thai chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 Thai chili finely chopped
- 1 cup potato starch
- Canola or vegetable oil for frying
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves picked, for garnish
- Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Whisk together ½ cup water with ½ cup sugar until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ingredients (vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, chili). Add chicken and stir to coat. Marinate for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare sauce. Combine chili sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, with Thai chili in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the sauce has slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
- Heat the frying oil to 350 degrees F.
- Remove chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Toss chicken in potato starch, making sure to evenly coat all sides. Shake off excess potato starch.
- Gently place some of the chicken pieces into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from oil and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Pour half of the sauce on top of the chicken and toss to coat. Top with fresh cilantro and serve with remaining sauce on the side.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Karaage refers to the Japanese cooking technique in which the protein is marinated, coated in flour, and fried. I've taken that application and used it for this recipe, changing up the ingredients to make it a Thai chicken karaage.
The first step is to marinate the chicken thigh in the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar mixture. Let the chicken sit in the marinade for 1 hour to allow the flavors to soak in. The combination of sugar, water, vinegar, and fish sauce will add all the flavor to the chicken resulting in the most delicious karaage.
While the chicken is marinating, make the sauce. Going with the Thai theme, we are going to use Thai sweet chili as the base for the sauce. By adding sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and Thai chile, we are adding elements of salty, sweet, and spicy to the sauce. Let the sauce simmer for a couple of minutes or until slightly thickened.
Now it's time to cook the chicken. Following the traditional technique, coat the chicken in potato starch, shake off the excess, and fry. Unfortunately, because the chicken is coated with potato starch, it cannot be baked in the oven. You just wouldn't get that same crispy coating in the oven.
Coat the chicken in the sauce, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy! I made my Thai chicken karaage the main star of the meal instead of just an appetizer, and boy was it delicious! Definitely a different type of karaage but still tasty nonetheless.
For more snack inspiration check out these avocado egg rolls!