These are nuggets for a sophisticated palate, crisp and seasoned with a complex mixture called togarashi. The name can refer to simply ground dried Japanese chilies or to a blend of that chili powder plus toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, dried ground tangerine peel, dried nori (seaweed) and Sichuan peppercorns. The blend is available at Asian markets and at some Whole Foods Markets; see NOTE below to make your own.
You'll need a thermometer.
Serve with hot mustard, hot sauce or your favorite condiments for dipping.
Servings: 8 - 12 appetizer servings or 4 to 6 main-course
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon homemade or store-bought togarashi (see headnote)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 1/4 tablespoons peeled, freshly grated ginger root
- 3 1/4 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, plus more as needed
- 1/4 cup sake , plus more as needed
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups water, plus more as needed
- 2 1/2 cups potato starch
- 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into generous bite-size pieces
Fill a deep saucepan with 2 inches of oil; heat over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Position a wire rack over several layers of paper towels.
Combine the togarashi, egg, ginger, garlic, salt, soy sauce, sake and 1 cup of the water in a mixing bowl; gradually whisk in the potato starch to form a batter. Add the chicken and toss to thoroughly coat. The batter will thicken upon standing for a few minutes; taste, and add soy sauce, sake or water as needed, but a thick batter will adhere better.
When the oil is ready, add 4 or 5 pieces of the coated chicken at a time. Fry for about 4 minutes, until golden brown and firm. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to the rack to drain. (Cut the first piece open to gauge doneness, and adjust the oil temperature or cooking time as needed.) Repeat to use all of the chicken. Discard the leftover batter.
NOTE: To make a scant 1/2 cup of togarashi spice blend, combine 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds; 3 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, 1 teaspoon dried nori, 3 teaspoons dried ground orange or tangerine peel; 3 teaspoons Asian red chili powder (togarashi); 1 teaspoon black sesame seed (optional); and 1 teaspoon toasted poppy seed in a designated spice grinder. Pulse to form an integrated spice blend, making sure the peppercorns have broken down. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store at room temperature for up to 3 months.
From Erik Bruner-Yang, chef of Toki Underground in Northwest Washington.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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