Chicken nanban is a deliciously tender deep-fried chicken marinated in a sweet and sour sauce. The dish is often topped with a heaping of creamy tartar sauce before serving. Rather than oily and crispy, this deep-fried chicken is light and fluffy. The chicken is so juicy and tender that it almost has a buttery mouthfeel. Combine this texture with the sweet and sour marinade and the creamy tartar sauce, and you’ll have an incredible juicy flavour bomb!
Although it sounds like a mouthful, the dish in itself is quite simple! First cut chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces (smaller pieces help cook the chicken evenly). Dip in batter and deep fry until cooked. Then, soak the chicken in the sweet and sour sauce, consisting of soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Top off the chicken with tartar sauce. This dish is often served with thinly sliced cabbage and plain rice!
The Origins of Chicken Nanban
This dish originates from the Miyazaki prefecture and it is thought to be inspired by Portuguese cuisine. Historically, nanban used to be a term to describe the exciting and exotic imported goods coming into Japan. This word was then adapted to describe dishes with European influence. The nanban sauce comes from nanbanzuke, which is a type of Japanese sweet and sour marinade used for deep fried fish. The Japanese sauce consists of vinegar, rice wine, carrots, and chilli peppers. Its flavour is considered to be similar to the Portuguese fish dish, Escabeche. Two chefs from Miyazaki were inspired to adapt this nanban sauce to make a tangy fried chicken dish and it eventually became the prefecture’s specialty! As such, this recipe is Miyazaki’s soul food in the comfort of your home!
- 300g chicken thigh
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp light flour
- 1 egg (medium size, beaten)
- Deep-frying oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- ½ tsp ginger (grated)
- Tartar sauce (as desired)
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dust with flour, and dip into the beaten egg.
- Pour deep-frying oil into a pan, about 3cm from the bottom, and heat to 180℃. Add the chicken from step 1 and fry for about 8 mins until the chicken is cooked. Remove and let sit on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Separately in a small saucepan, mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and ginger and heat on medium until hot.
- Dip the chicken from step 2 into the sauce from step 3, and let the sauce soak into the chicken.
- Serve hot and top with tartar sauce.
Introduction courtesy of Tiffany Furukawa
Tiffany spent her childhood exploring Japanese food in the suburbs of Tokyo and helping her Obaachan (grandmother) in the kitchen. These experiences nurtured her passion for food and she is now studying environmental sustainability and food sciences at university. In her free time, Tiffany loves discovering hidden restaurants in Japan, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and going on runs!