Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Cooking Chicken Tempura


Chicken is a very popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is used in a wide range of dishes, such as kara-age (deep fried chicken), tempura, yakitori (grilled chicken), nikomi (stewed dishes), mizutaki (chicken hot pot), and many others.

Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant grew up in Miyazaki, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, where he was particularly inspired by the flavour of the regional dish of jidori chicken thighs, lightly grilled over charcoal. Jidori is a protected type of domestic ‘pedigree’ chicken, raised free-range. Subsequently, chicken has always been the chef’s specialty and chicken dishes such as kara-age and robata-yaki, a type of charcoal grill, are a staple on the menu at AKIRA restaurant.

Read on to learn how to make chicken tempura according to Akira’s recipe.

Chicken in Japanese Cuisine

Akira suggests that good, fresh chicken meat tastes best when cooked simply, even if only seasoned with salt and pepper. Chicken should be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and grilled chicken in particular is best complemented with acidic flavours of citrus fruits such as lemons or ponzu.

Chicken tempura (deep-fried, battered chicken) is an example of a Japanese dish that can be easily prepared at home.

To start, slice 330g chicken breast into eight strips. Next, prepare the marinade and batter.

Chicken Tempura Marinade Recipe

1 pinch of grated ginger
⅓ tsp salt
¼ tsp (or less) sugar
1 pinch of ajinomoto (MSG, can be omitted)
1 pinch of pepper
2 tbsp cooking sake
2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients and marinate the chicken slices in the mixture for 20 minutes.

Chicken Tempura Batter Recipe

50g (about 5½ tbsp) wheat flour or tempura flour
20g (2 tbsp or more) potato starch
1 egg
60ml water
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp shōchū or cooking sake
2 tsp vinegar

Mix the ingredients using chopsticks.

This recipe uses wheat flour and potato starch to produce a slightly crispier batter that will stay crisp even when cold.

Cooking Chicken Tempura

Dry the marinated chicken slices well, then dip them in batter and deep-fry at about 180°C for 10 minutes. Once the batter turns light brown, it should be done.

The sizzling sound of water evaporating will gradually become quieter while you’re frying; once that happens you can remove the chicken from the oil and set aside on the cooling rack.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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