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Chicken Katsu is a well-known Japanese restaurant favourite among Japanese food lovers, as well as my son! My son arrived home from his recent trip to Samoa and New Zealand, so to welcome him back from his adventures abroad, I made his favourite dish last weekend – Japanese Chicken Katsu.
There is always a debate on which cuts of the chicken are the best or the most suitable for a dish like Chicken Katsu. Should we be using the breast meat or the thigh fillets? Chicken breast is usually more subdued in flavour compared to the darker thigh fillets meats. Furthermore, if you’re not careful, the breast can become a little dry when it is cooked. Chicken thighs on the other hand, have a richer flavour but when deep fried it can become a tad oily, due to the thigh’s naturally occurring fat combined with the oil used for deep frying.
I think it all comes down to personal preference, and I prefer to use chicken breast for my Chicken Katsu recipe. The key to working with breast meat is to overcome any issues with dryness when it is cooked. If you’ll remember, I recently attended a miso making workshop and it was there that I found the secret to a moist and juicy Chicken Katsu using chicken breast.
The secret ingredient is “Shio Koji“. Fermented food has always been quite popular in Japan, and recently Koji (malt) is an ingredient that has taken Japan by storm. Combine the two, and you have a fantastic flavour combination! Shio Koji is an excellent example of this. Shio means “salt”, and Koji means “malt” so Shio Koji can be translated into “salted rice malt”.
After I learnt how to make Shio Koji at the miso making workshop, I did a little bit of research into why marinating meat in Shio Koji makes it so tender. This is a simple explanation of the science behind it: Koji contains aspergillus, which has a substance called protease that degrades proteins. This enzyme breaks down proteins into peptides and amino acids. Marinating something in Shio Koji will not only make the meat soften even when it is heated, but also imparts a savoury “Umami” flavour as the amino acids increase, which improves the taste remarkably.
If you can get Koji, making Shio Koji is quite simple really. Mix the Koji and salt in a jar. You want to use enough salt to be equal to 30% of the weight of however much Koji you are using. Then add just enough water to cover the Koji and salt. Leave it at room temperature for about a week, making sure to give it a good shake every day. Once it is fermented, pop it into the refrigerator to stop it fermenting. You can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge for about 6 months.
Of course, you can make Chicken Katsu without marinating in Shio Koji, so don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on any. Also just to make things easier, I use a simple short cut to help make crumbing the meat with panko even faster! I make a deep fry batter rather than applying flour first, then dip it in egg, and finally panko crumb. To create the batter simply mix the flour and egg together, then dip the meat in the mixture and then panko crumb. You can see it in the mini movie I created below. I hope you enjoy!
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Chicken Katsu (marinated in Shio Koji) recipe
- 1 Chicken breast
- 2 tbsp Shio Koji
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 1 large egg weigh about 50g
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups Panko crumb
- 750 ml oil for deep frying
- 2 cups green salad leaves to serve
- 1/4 lemon sliced to serve
Trim the chicken breast and slice the chicken to half of its original thickness.
Place the chicken in a zip lock bag. Add 2 tbs shio koji and ½ tsp garlic powder. *1
Zip up the bag and massage the koji and garlic powder well into the chicken.
Refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes to let it marinate.
Remove the shio koji and garlic powder mixture off the meat.
Make the batter. Crack the egg, and add water and mayonnaise into a medium sized mixing bowl. Combine them well. Add the flour and mix them all together.
Dip the chicken breast to coat it with batter, then cover it thoroughly in panko crumbs.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. To check the oil temperature, drop a small piece of panko crumb into the oil. If it sinks half way to the bottom and floats back up to the surface with small bubbles around it, the oil is the perfect temperature.
Deep fry the panko crumbed chicken breast for about 2 minutes on one side, then turn it over carefully and fry for another 2 minutes on the other side.
When you lift the chicken up out of the oil with wooden chopsticks, you will feel a little vibration when the meat is cooked.
Cut the chicken into 2 cm wide pieces (if you are going to eat with chopsticks) *2
Serve with green salad leaves and a sliced lemon
*1 If you cannot get shio koji, you can skip process 2-5 and use chicken thigh instead if you don’t like the dryness of the chicken breast.
*2 Usually any large pieces of meat are sliced because we tend to use chopsticks to eat. If you use a knife and fork then you can choose to skip slicing the katsu.
Please note: Nutritional information (calories) are an indication only as it is hard to estimate the amount of oil used for deep frying. Green salad leaves are not included in calories.