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Are you a Karaage Kid?

ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 09:56 AM

Where do you go to get your Karaage kick?

I'm not as familiar with Japanese fried chicken as I'd like to be (have my head stuck in a plate of Taiwanese popcorn chicken most of the time), but this list from http://www.latimes.com/features/food/... piqued my interest.

Any recommendations you'd like to pass along, or any comments on the LAT list?

  1. k
    kainzero Jun 4, 2013 10:20 AM

    I think the only Karaage that's wowed me was the one at Musha.

    Generally I don't order karaage to be wowed though, it's more like a comfort food/appetizer to me... it's like the fries with your burger.

    1. A5 KOBE Jun 4, 2013 10:22 AM

      I was actually a tekka maki and ten don kid.

      But I find that those karaage mixes you get at Mitsua or Marukai pretty damn good.

      1. PaulF Jun 4, 2013 10:53 AM

        We eat it at Yamadaya all the time.

        My son's dinner order is just their kara-age appetizer.

        I have nothing to compare it to -- I don't order it everywhere, but I like what I get at Yamadaya. We go to the Washington/Sepulveda location.

        1. blimpbinge Jun 4, 2013 11:05 AM

          I feel that karaage is a decent appetizer, but something with the taste or texture of it makes it bland (even with sauce). It doesn't seem to vary too much between restaurants, so I don't usually order it.

          Like you, I'm also usually eating taiwanese crispy/popcorn chicken - 鹽酥雞 (Yan Su Ji)

          29 Replies
          1. re: blimpbinge
            ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 11:10 AM

            Ok, I didn't want to start any cross-border international disputes (as we're still trying to figure out Senkaku Islands after all), but I agree with blimpbinge.

            Popcorn chicken just somehow ... tastes ... better ... than their Japanese counterparts.

            But I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              Silverjay Jun 4, 2013 01:34 PM

              I had never heard of Taiwanese crispy/popcorn chicken, but just googling around it looks like the main differences between it and Japanese karaage are that the chicken meat in the Taiwanese version is cut into smaller pieces, which is going to make it more crispy. They also use garlic and 5-spice, which are pretty Chinese flavorings.

              Japanese tend to prefer meat more juicy. So the thigh meat, same portion of chicken used for Taiwanese version it seems, is left in larger chunks. Japanese also use ginger as part of the prep, rather than garlic...I mean not always, but usually. Ginger is commonly used for homey types of Japanese meat dishes.

              I met an exec from Yum! Brands Japan once. They are the umbrella company for KFC. Anyway, I asked him about what the differences are between Americans and Japanese tastes and I'll always remember his response: "Americans like crispy. Japanese like juicy."......I don't know where Taiwanese fall. Maybe crispy...

              ...Sorry, can't help with LA recs. Just saw the thread title and jumped in.

              1. re: Silverjay
                A5 KOBE Jun 4, 2013 02:01 PM

                To me, the main difference between is the Taiwanese Popcorn has that amazing flavor bomb of spices and karaage does not. Plus you get that fun spear/harpoon to eat with.

                1. re: A5 KOBE
                  ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 02:33 PM

                  Yes, this.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    i
                    ilysla Jun 5, 2013 12:52 PM

                    So does Taiwan popcorn chicken taste like the poultry version of the fried squid app that's common in HK cafes?

                    1. re: ilysla
                      K K Jun 5, 2013 02:12 PM

                      Nope completely different. The fried squid app is 椒鹽鮮魷, where it is salt, pepper, batter, and maybe jalapenos, and in some cases, garlic bits (the key really is fresh squid and frying technique). The salt pepper powder, additional spices, and fried basil make the TW popcorn chicken 鹽酥雞 very different beasts.

                      1. re: K K
                        i
                        ilysla Jun 5, 2013 02:36 PM

                        Ah, thanks for the info. Wonder if they have this at Volcano Tea on Sawtelle? It would just make the comparison btw kara-age and the popcorn chicken so much easier! Have it at Hurry Curry and then walk a few doors down to Volcano....

                        I've kara-age at Jinya and Yamadaya. I thought both versions were enjoyable but not amazing.

                        1. re: K K
                          ipsedixit Jun 5, 2013 03:38 PM

                          Ditto what K K said.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            K K Jun 5, 2013 04:10 PM

                            One of the big differences between karaage and TW fried chicken/popcorn chicken is that the latter involves the additional spices/herbs, and with a combination of high heat creates what is known as explosive fragrance 爆香 (which is actually a verb in Chinese) that creates a multi dimensional assault on the senses, in a shock & awe ass kicking kind of way. There's also the result of the texture...lightly crispy, airy, fluffy (like fried puff pastry). Basically a reiteration of what was already said about basil, garlic, spices by Tony, but with cooking vernacular.

                            爆香 is also the act of forcing the flavors of the seasoning out through high heat. Shallots and fatty bits of pork (no additional oil needed) and maybe some soy sauce/salt stir fried quickly in high heat is one helluva fantastic condiment. I guess one can say freshly made XO sauce is also born of that method.

                            1. re: K K
                              TonyC Jun 5, 2013 05:48 PM

                              and the sweet potato starch.

                              karaage uses katakuriko which is just potato starch. huge difference in the "fluff" texture, IMO.

                              there's a place for both, but the bias in the thread is... obvious.

                    2. re: A5 KOBE
                      Silverjay Jun 4, 2013 02:57 PM

                      Yeah, good karaage just tastes like juicy chicken. Not spices and stuff.

                    3. re: Silverjay
                      Dommy Jun 4, 2013 04:52 PM

                      That is too funny because 95% of the Karage I've had has been anything but juicy. I find it more tough and salty than other kinda 'fried chicken bites'... My favorite of the genre is Ludo's chicken Balls...

                      That being said, I've tried four of the ones on the list and they have all been 'meh'. The best ones I've had is the karage right now is at Men Oh in Downtown and Asa in Gardena

                      --Dommy!

                      1. re: Dommy
                        Servorg Jun 4, 2013 05:53 PM

                        As Mr. Taster recommended here, try the fried chicken appetizer at Hurry Curry on Sawtelle sometime. It is one of the few that I've ever had that don't come as as you've so aptly described the shortcomings of most kara-age.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          Dommy Jun 4, 2013 05:56 PM

                          Hmm! I will admit I've never tried the one at Hurry Curry... and you don't need to twist my arm to go get curry...

                          --Dommy!

                          1. re: Servorg
                            i
                            ilysla Jun 5, 2013 10:53 PM

                            Went to Hurry Curry tonight to have the chicken (among other things). Definitely better than Jinya or Yamadaya. Chicken is indeed juicy, but the pieces are a little big, the batter could've been crispier, and the dipping sauce is a must to temper the sweetness of the batter.

                            1. re: Servorg
                              i
                              ilysla Jun 5, 2013 10:53 PM

                              Thanks for such a thorough answer! =)

                              1. re: ilysla
                                i
                                ilysla Jun 6, 2013 02:10 PM

                                Odd, this was supposed to be in response to KK....

                          2. re: Silverjay
                            TonyC Jun 4, 2013 10:16 PM

                            "They also use garlic and 5-spice, which are pretty Chinese flavorings."

                            Garlic isn't essential, white pepper powder is; fried basil makes it phenomenal.

                            Taiwanese salted crispy (popcorn -- do I dare?) chicken is salty, peppery, spicy, and juicy. Karage is.. expensive and fit for cosplay obsessed otakus.

                            1. re: TonyC
                              Silverjay Jun 5, 2013 02:30 AM

                              Sounds like an LA thing.

                              1. re: Silverjay
                                blimpbinge Jun 5, 2013 08:41 AM

                                You mean a tw thing..

                                1. re: blimpbinge
                                  Silverjay Jun 5, 2013 09:12 AM

                                  Speaking of otaku, here is a link to the Japan Karaage Association that promotes "changing the world with Japanese karaage"- http://karaage.ne.jp/ .

                          3. re: ipsedixit
                            Savour Jun 5, 2013 12:27 PM

                            Now I'm interested in your favorite places for Taiwanese popcorn chicken!

                            1. re: Savour
                              RacerX Jun 5, 2013 02:02 PM

                              +1 on recs for chowworthy places to sample the taiwanese popcorn chicken please! I can't believe I"ve been missing out on this.

                              BTW, I have sampled and enjoyed the karaage at both Jinya and Yamadaya every time I visit either ramen shop.

                              I guess my expectaton of karaage is a bit simplistic; basic, dark meat fried chicken with that umami-like flavoring from the soy sauce brine. That's a winning combination in my book and both ramen shops seem to hit the flavor notes just right for me.

                              1. re: RacerX
                                A5 KOBE Jun 5, 2013 02:15 PM

                                SinBaLa
                                Why Thirsty
                                Lollicup
                                Pa Pa Walk
                                Copycat Cafe
                                Ten Ren
                                Milk and Honey
                                Tapioca Express

                                There are multiple places. It really depends on what you want with you TPC. I like Ten Ren because of the honey tea. Or if you want sausage with your TPC, go to SinBaLa.

                                1. re: RacerX
                                  k
                                  kainzero Jun 5, 2013 02:38 PM

                                  A number of times, I've also seen karaage served with mayo, which would indicate that they really do want that umami to pop... though mayo is often seen as a cheap man's way to add flavor.

                                2. re: Savour
                                  ipsedixit Jun 5, 2013 03:45 PM

                                  In no particular order:

                                  Kosuke
                                  Why Thirsty
                                  Tenju Tea House

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Savour Jun 6, 2013 10:04 AM

                                    Awesome. Very close to my stomping grounds.

                                    1. re: Savour
                                      ipsedixit Jun 6, 2013 10:07 AM

                                      By the way, I really enjoy your blog. Dunno why I've never mentioned it before.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        Savour Jun 15, 2013 01:45 PM

                                        Thanks for the kind words. I took the munchkin to Why Thirsty yesterday - Popcorn chicken was delicious (and the portions were huge - kiddo ordered the fish filet with noodles and it was enough to feed 4) and we shared a rose milk tea with boba. Thanks for the rec!

                            2. wienermobile Jun 4, 2013 11:39 AM

                              Karaage recs from today's LA Times:
                              http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: wienermobile
                                ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 11:45 AM

                                Ahem, from my OP:

                                >>>but this list from http://www.latimes.com/features/food/... piqued my interest.

                                Never hurts to double one's pleasure, however!

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  Mr Taster Jun 4, 2013 02:53 PM

                                  OK, the Jinya karaage rec is terrible. Who writes these articles? I've ordered it on three different occasions (Miracle Mile branch, RIP) and the stuff has been bland and greasy each time.

                                  I absolutely love the non-fancy karaage at Hurry Curry of Tokyo on Sawtelle. The sake marinated chicken is spectacular, juicy and flavorful, and a great added bonus is that you won't be paying the inflated hipster prices since this is absolutely not a trendy hotspot.

                                  It's not bland, like karaage can be. It's really got a wonderful flavor sweet, crunchy and salty-- entirely different than white pepper intensive Taiwanese popcorn chicken, but just as delicious.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                    Porthos Jun 4, 2013 08:36 PM

                                    Funny, I found Jinya OC's version too marinated and almost too salty the way the egg is almost too salty. A bit wet almost like it is slightly undercooked.

                                    Yamadaya is pretty decent. Used to be better up at the Torrance branch.

                                    Agree with chowseeker below that Toihei is my favorite. An excellent version just like all their other chicken dishes.

                                  2. re: ipsedixit
                                    wienermobile Jun 4, 2013 04:50 PM

                                    oops!

                                  3. re: wienermobile
                                    PeterCC Jun 4, 2013 11:46 AM

                                    Isn't that the link ipse posted in his OP? :-)

                                    I'm not an expert on karaage either, but the zangi, a Hokkaido variant(?), at Ramen Hayatemaru is excellent.

                                    Their amazu (sweet vinegar) dish, zangi topped with negi (scallions) and shoga (ginger), is a great sweet-and-sour preparation.

                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: PeterCC
                                      blimpbinge Jun 4, 2013 12:39 PM

                                      that. looks interesting. a departure from the norm, will try!

                                      1. re: PeterCC
                                        b
                                        bulavinaka Jun 4, 2013 02:56 PM

                                        Second your rec. They also have a version coated with a mayo/ketchup-based sauce . It's on their happy hour menu.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka
                                          PeterCC Jun 4, 2013 03:00 PM

                                          I haven't seen that one at the West L.A. location. Interesting. Will have to look more closely. Come to think of it, I haven't seen a happy hour menu there, but there is a specials menu with additional items like meatballs, shiokara (squid with fermented guts), octopus, etc, but no other fried chicken preparation that I recall.

                                          1. re: PeterCC
                                            b
                                            bulavinaka Jun 4, 2013 04:40 PM

                                            Must differ by location. I've been to to the Torrance location on Carson.

                                    2. c
                                      chowseeker1999 Jun 4, 2013 12:56 PM

                                      Interesting.

                                      no offense, but that LA Times list is disappointing. They leave off the arguably the best Karaage in LA (Torihei) and another 4 - 5 solid ones for those? Yikes. :(

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: chowseeker1999
                                        ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 02:33 PM

                                        Which other 4 or 5 solid ones would your recommend chowseeker1999?

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          c
                                          chowseeker1999 Jun 4, 2013 11:14 PM

                                          hi ipse, i learned from my experience on that J Gold 101 thread that it's better if i keep my mouth shut. sorry about mentioning Torihei and other possible recs. i don't wanna get criticized so it's better to keep quiet. thanks.

                                          1. re: chowseeker1999
                                            TonyC Jun 4, 2013 11:36 PM

                                            That's ridiculous. Don't disown your opinion. Torihei's karaage is a-ok by us, especially when the rest of the menu is so strong. Give Hayatemaru's version a try when you have a chance.

                                            Your opinion is equally as important as someone else's a*hole.

                                            This post, just like the LAT post, will generate traffic, and income, for CHOW. Your post matters; don't apologize.

                                            1. re: chowseeker1999
                                              ipsedixit Jun 5, 2013 04:41 AM

                                              No fucking way chowseeker1999.

                                              Post which places you like for karaage, and unless it's someplace like Crustacean, I've your back all the way.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                c
                                                chowseeker1999 Jul 9, 2013 08:44 PM

                                                just wanted to say thanks to ipse, tonyc, porthos, peter. your encouragement makes CH feel more welcome now.

                                                1. re: chowseeker1999
                                                  PeterCC Jul 9, 2013 09:03 PM

                                                  Glad to hear that. We all benefit for more voices, and more bodies trying places even if we may have different tastes.

                                              2. re: chowseeker1999
                                                PeterCC Jun 5, 2013 07:59 AM

                                                +1 to TonyC's and Ipse's comments.

                                                It almost feels to me like someone been spiking the CH reservoir with troll pills. People seem to be leaping to conclusions and reading into things in the worst possible ways and reacting to extremes recently.

                                                Name your 4-5 other good choices, there's no way just giving your recs (without putting down any else's choices) can result in the same kind of drama that's been erupting elsewhere (I say naively).

                                                Bottom line, you shouldn't feel sorry about mentioning Torihei and other possible recs when Ipse was specifically asking for recommendations in his OP.

                                                1. re: PeterCC
                                                  Porthos Jun 5, 2013 08:09 AM

                                                  It almost feels to me like someone been spiking the CH reservoir with troll pills.
                                                  ==============
                                                  +1.

                                                  We could all do better starting with myself. Ignore the deliberate inflammatory stuff and try to stay the course with the chow.

                                                  1. re: Porthos
                                                    The Chowhound Team Jun 5, 2013 08:31 AM

                                                    Thanks, folks, for letting chowseeker know his opinion was welcome. But we hope that people can get back to talking about food, rather than talking about trolls now -- this kind of 'discussion of the discussion' tends to get really long and drags threads waaaaaay off-topic, so we try to avoid it on regional boards. Thanks!

                                                2. re: chowseeker1999
                                                  Porthos Jun 5, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                  Already got your back CS1999. See my above post. Torihei is a great rec! Also my favorite.

                                            2. Mr Taster Jun 4, 2013 02:49 PM

                                              I had to go back to an old post from my honeymoon in Japan circa 2007 in order to jog my memory of what spectacular karaage tastes like. It was the topper on a bowl of an intensely rich chicken ramen, at a little ramenya in Kyoto.

                                              Please excuse my use of the word "revelation". Consider it youthful indiscretion... I know better now.

                                              "The fried chicken at Karako was a revelation. Outrageously light, barely there batter and the meat had a juicy succulence beyond our wildest expectations. On its own it was ambrosia but when dipped in that sinfully rich soup it made us both go bleary-eyed with gluttony. We hardly knew what to eat first. The best part is that a huge bowl of the ramen costs 650Y and the chicken a paltry 300Y ! We would share one order of each and be full for the rest of the day."

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/412682

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. m
                                                mrhooks Jun 4, 2013 04:27 PM

                                                Used to be Izakaya Bincho, but I don't know if they still offer it, now that they've returned to making yakitori and discontinued many dishes. Last time I went (not long after they started doing yakitori again), I think they still had the regular, but not the one with green onion sauce. Yamadaya's is okay, but it isn't nearly as good as Bincho's.

                                                1. PeterCC Jun 11, 2013 01:23 PM

                                                  Anyone have any karaage worth noting recently?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: PeterCC
                                                    ipsedixit Jun 11, 2013 01:24 PM

                                                    DotM for July?

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                      PeterCC Jun 11, 2013 01:38 PM

                                                      As long as I can have ika no karaage...

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        A5 KOBE Jun 11, 2013 01:43 PM

                                                        fried chicken?

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