So many places around the world call to us. We’re so enamored with traveling that our daughter’s placemat at the table is a map of the United States. (We study the states we might visit this year, not so she will memorize her capitols. We want her to know the geography of the road we’ll be traveling.) We go to Italy every year, twice a year this year, but we still hunger for more. There is nothing like eating a good meal in a culture not our own.
Still, for all the traveling we have been lucky enough to do these last seven years together, Danny and I have never had the intensity of experience our friends Matthew, Laurie, and Iris did by spending a month in Tokyo last year.
Matthew Amster-Burton is one of the funniest human beings I have the pleasure of knowing. He has a keen eye, a skeptical mind, and a genius for condensing what you need to know in a handful of sentences. So trust me when I say this: you want to read Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo. It’s a consistently riveting book that might make you want to slap the bed as you laugh.
And hey! Matthew ate natto and described it so well that you don’t have to eat it. What more do you need?
I could write all this on Twitter. But I also wanted to give you food. So Matthew, Laurie, and Iris (their hilarious, precocious daughter who was the subject of Matthew’s other book, Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, and more importantly for us, one of Lucy’s favorite people) came over for lunch a few weeks ago. We made some food for you.
Well, and for ourselves as well.
Whenever we see Matthew, we remind ourselves: must go to Uwajimaya more often. His penchant for Asian cuisine inspires us to look for toasted sesame seeds, skinny cucumbers, and a better brand of mirin.
We decided to make fried chicken together, the kind of fried chicken eaten in Tokyo. Guess what? It’s naturally gluten-free. Tokyo fried chicken is not heavily breaded, with a crust so thick it has a texture and taste all its own. Dredged in potato starch and fried twice, Tokyo fried chicken is dangerously delicious. It’s best to have a lot of friends over when you make this. You’ll want to eat both plates by yourself.
Look at that hot oil! Don’t be afraid of it. Matthew sure wasn’t afraid of it.
Having a spider strainer makes all frying easier.
Look at that gorgeous fried chicken. Ready to dive in?
Wait. You need one more fry for extra crispness.
While Matthew was frying us some chicken, Lucy and Iris took turns bashing up the toasted sesame seeds. This is a special bowl the Amster-Burtons brought back from Tokyo just for this purpose.
And then, there was lunch. Tokyo fried chicken. These delicious green beans. Pickled red cabbage. Japanese cucumbers with a simple rice wine vinegar dressing. A sorghum-lentil salad (sorry, that didn’t fit the theme at all). Watermelon.
It was all gone pretty quickly. And I’m pretty sure I slapped the table while I ate, since Matthew made me laugh so hard. Again.
I know that the idea of frying foods scares some people. However, if you keep the kids away from the hot stove and have a reliable thermometer, there’s no reason why frying should be terrifying.
And there are numerous studies to show that the occasional fried food isn’t as bad for your health as people assume. Fry your food at the right temperature, and with a good oil (we like rice bran oil here), and you’re good to go.
All you need to do is set up your ingredients ahead of time and get those plates covered with paper towels and you’re good to go. Gather round, everyone! It’s time to eat fried chicken.
- 2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 large nub ginger (about 1 inch long), peeled
- 1/4 cup gluten-free tamari
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup potato starch
- rice bran oil for frying
- kosher salt
- Making the marinade. Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Grate the garlic, then the ginger, over the chicken. Add the tamari and mirin and toss all the ingredients together to coat the chicken. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Coating the chicken. Drain the chicken of the marinade. Dredge each piece of chicken in the potato starch. Set them aside, ready to fry, on a large plate.
- Preparing to fry. Set a Dutch oven or large wok over medium heat. Pour in 2 inches of rice bran oil. Checking the temperature with a thermometer often, heat the oil to 325°. Add enough chicken pieces to not-quite fill the Dutch oven. Do not crowd the pot. Fry the chicken until it cooked through, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried chicken to a paper-towel-covered plate. Continue frying the remaining chicken.
- When you have fried all the chicken once, heat the oil to 375°. With the slotted spoon, return some of the chicken to the hot oil and fry it until each piece is crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Move the finished fried chicken to a plate covered with paper towels. Fry the remaining batches of chicken.
- Scatter kosher salt over the top of the chicken, if you wish. Serve immediately.
Here is the rice bran oil we use: http://chefshop.com/Rice-Bran-Oil-P6065.aspx