Chicken nanban is a fried chicken dish. Fried chicken fillet, to be more precise. But unlike most fried chicken recipes that start with marinating, chicken nanban fillets are marinated after frying. Strange? Maybe, but the result is delicious.
There was a Japanese channel on satellite TV called NHK World where the shows were a mixture of news, cultural documentaries and cooking. When we were not the Wonderloop bus in Osaka last year, we passed by the NHK building and the tour guide explained what it was. And I thought about all the wonderful cooking shows and food documentaries we have enjoyed on NHK World over the years.
Anyway, because no one in the family speaks Japanese, we rely on the subtitles. This dish is from a recipe in one of NHK World’s shows, Dining With The Chef.
It was my husband, Speedy, who saw it. He enumerated the ingredients and described the procedure, then suggested that the full recipe might be available on NHK World’s website. It was. And my version of chicken nanban was based closely on that Dining With The Chef recipe. Unfortunately, after the website was revamped, I could not locate that recipe anymore.
Chicken nanban consists of pieces of chicken fillets that are seasoned, coated with starch, and fried just until crisp.
The fried chicken is then marinated in a sweet-sour sauce that had earlier been boiled and cooled. Just three minutes per side and the chicken soaks up all the wonderful flavors of the sauce.
Doesn’t the crispiness get affected by the marinating? Surprisingly, it is not. The marinade contains sugar which, when cooled, caramelizes and protects the chicken’s exterior so that the crispness stays long enough for you to enjoy chicken nanban.
It is traditional to serve chicken nanban with tartar sauce which is quite different from the Western tartar sauce. The Japanese version includes crushed hard-boiled eggs.
Chicken Nanban With Tartar Sauce
For the tartar sauce
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 tablespoons pickle relish drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion squeezed
- ¼ cup Japanese mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lime lemon or lime juice, or to taste
For the marinade
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- salt to taste
To complete the dish
- 1 whole chicken breast deboned (or two chicken breast fillets) and cut into bite-size pieces
- salt and pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 ½ cooking oil
- toasted sesame seeds to garnish
- thinly sliced scallions to garnish
Make the tartar sauce
- Shell the eggs and crush using the back of a fork.
- Mix the eggs with the rest of the ingredients for the tartar sauce.
- Set aside.
Cook the marinade
- Boil together the ingredients for the marinade until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a shallow bowl and cool.
Cook the chicken
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with the corn starch.
- Heat the cooking oil and fry the chicken, in batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about two to three minutes per side depending on the thickness.
Marinate the chicken
- Place the cooked chicken in the marinade in a single layer. Allow to soak for three minutes per side.
Assemble the chicken nanban
- Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate (leave the excess marinade behind) and spoon the tartar sauce beside them.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallions before serving.