Every culture seems to have at least one version of fried chicken, and for good reason, because almost everyone loves the stuff! For years I’ve been making chicken katsu, also called Japanese fried chicken or torikatsu, when I have to feed people of all ages and all tastes. Kids love it, and adults love it. It’s good for picky palates and people who want something adventurous.
This dish reminds me most of my son Jake, because it was basically all we could get him to eat on a trip to Hawaii we took many years ago. Back then, he was at the age when he considered chicken strips the only proper thing to order at a restaurant. Chicken katsu is actually more popular in Hawaii than in Japan. In Japan, pork katsu (panko crusted fried pork) is more popular. Tonkatsu sauce, or Japanese barbecue sauce, is saltier than American barbecue sauce, with a spicy edge to it. Give it a try, and if your kids don’t like it they can always go back to their old standby.
The process of making chicken katsu is absolutely simple, and familiar if you’ve ever made any kind of fried chicken. Lightly seasoned chicken pieces are coated first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg, then in panko breadcrumbs. The coated chicken pieces are fried in canola oil until brown and crispy.
I usually fry chicken katsu with my T-fal self-cleaning deep fryer, one of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets. It keeps the oil at the exact right temperature, which helps the chicken’s crumb coating stay light and crispy, rather than greasy. The thing I love about this deep fryer is that when you’re done frying, the oil passes through a filter and into a storage tank so you can use it again. I only use my deep fryer once or twice a month, but I really do love it. I got very excited when I saw the same model used on “Master Chef” and “The Great British Baking Show.” You can also make chicken katsu in a frying pan, which is what I did for years before I got a deep fryer.
Chicken katsu is usually served with tonkatsu sauce, or Japanese barbecue sauce. It’s a simple mixture of ketchup, brown sugar, and soy sauce, with a few “secret ingredients” that give it extra zing. I’ve tried a bunch of different recipes for tonkatsu sauce, and this one is by far my favorite.
I make this chicken katsu recipe probably once a month, because it’s so easy, and I know everyone loves it. It’s still Jake’s favorite. Give it a try, and see if it earns a regular spot in your dinner menu rotation!
Chicken Katsu (Torikatsu) with Japanese Barbecue Sauce (Tonkatsu Sauce)
For the chicken:
- 2 pounds chicken tenders
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt plus additional to season chicken
- ½ teaspoon black pepper plus additional to season chicken
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- Canola oil for frying
For the sauce:
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice optional
- Trim excess fat and tough tendons from the chicken tenders.
- Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- In a shallow dish or pie plate, mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. In another dish, beat the 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons water. In a third dish, place the panko bread crumbs.
- Dip each piece of chicken first in flour, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs, pressing to make sure the pork is well coated.
- Deep fryer cooking instructions: Preheat the oil in the deep fryer to 375 degrees. Cook 3-4 pieces of chicken at a time in the hot oil for about 4 minutes until medium golden brown and cooked through.
- Stovetop cooking instructions: Heat about 1/3 inch of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat to about 375 degrees. If you don't have a frying thermometer, you can test the temperature of the oil by putting in a one-inch cube of bread. If it browns in about 50 seconds, the oil is the right temperature. Fry the chicken in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until medium golden brown and cooked through.
- Prepare the Japanese barbecue sauce (tonkatsu sauce) by whisking together all ingredients thoroughly.
- Serve katsu chicken with Japanese barbecue sauce and steamed rice.