Sweet and sour dishes from Chinese restaurants are really popular and my children love them whether it’s made with chicken or pork. This Sweet and Sour Chicken however is a little bit different from the typical one you’ve tried. Why?
Japanese Sweet and Sour Chicken
First of all, this sweet and sour chicken is a Japanese style. Did you notice there are several kinds of vegetables in the sweet and sour chicken? This is a copycat recipe from a popular Japanese diner – Ootoya (大戸屋) which specializes in Japanese home-cooking dishes (Katei Ryori 家庭料理). Some of you may be familiar with this restaurant as there are many Ootoya restaurants both in Japan and outside of Japan, including Singapore, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and also two locations in NYC.
In Japan, we refer to sweet and sour sauce as Amazu-An (甘酢あん), literary meaning sweet vinegar gravy. On Ootoya’s menu, this recipe is called Tori Kurozu-An (鶏と野菜の黒酢あん), using black rice vinegar (黒酢, Kurozu) in the sweet and sour sauce. Black rice vinegar is an aged vinegar made from rice and it is less sour and has deeper flavor compared to regular rice vinegar. Also, their version of sweet and sour sauce omits ketchup so you don’t see the typical red color in the sauce.
This sweet and sour chicken has been my favorite from Ootoya’s menu since I tried this dish for the first time years and years ago. When I was in Japan last summer, I shared a picture of this dish while dining there on Instagram. @alisasakura from Australia left a comment on my picture saying that Ootoya actually sells pre-made package of this special Kurozu-An sauce. So the next time I passed by the restaurant, I bought two packages to try at home (thank you again, @alisasakura!).
Packaged vs. Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken
After coming back to the US, I made this dish at home with the packaged sauce and tried to recreate this flavor. While testing my own recipe, I found out Ootoya actually shares the recipe for this dish online! So I made 3 batches for taste test:
- Recipe made with Ootoya’s package sauce
- Follow Ootoya’s recipe to make the sauce
- My version of Ootoya’s sauce
Our family had serious tasting session for this recipe and one sauce won everyone’s votes for best flavor. It was actually mine! My version was not that different from the original sauce, but in my humble opinion, I think mine has better balance than the packaged one or the Ootoya’s recipe. However, I still think the restaurant serves the best Tori Kurozu-An, but for home cooking, my family agrees that my recipe below was the best. I wrote down the exact measurements I used so please try to be accurate for the best result.
Before sharing the video and recipe, I want to quickly mention about a Japanese cooking technique called Suage (素揚げ, Su-Ah-geh). It means deep frying without a coating of flour or batter. This technique is used mostly for vegetables (but sometimes meat too). By deep frying vegetables for a short period of time, you can keep the crispness of the vegetable. Stir frying vegetables takes longer and sometimes the vegetables are cooked unevenly or tend to be wilted and soft. Suage technique helps the ingredient keep its original flavor, color, and shape.
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- 2 chicken thighs (300 g, 11 oz)
- 3 small potatoes
- 3” (8 cm) lotus root
- ½ carrot
- 1 eggplant
- ½ onion
- ½ green pepper
- ½ cup potato starch (corn starch)
- 3 cups deep frying oil (peanut oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, etc)
- Make the marinade. Grate the ginger and garlic. Combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sake in a large bowl.
- Trim off and discard any excess fat from the chicken, then cut the meat into bite size pieces and add them to the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 10 min.
- Combine all the ingredients for Black Vinegar Sauce and mix well together.
- Cut the potato in half and carrot into small pieces. For carrot, I use “rangiri” cutting technique to create more surface space so that they will cook faster and look pretty.
- Potatoes and carrots take too long to deep fry; therefore we boil them first for 10 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
- Cut the lotus root to ⅛” slices and eggplant into ½” slices.
- Cut onion and green peppers in wedges and cut half in length-wise.
- In a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot, add 3 cups of oil (adjust the amount of oil depend on the size of your deep fryer. You will need at least 2 inches of oil in the pot.). Preheat the oil to 340F (170C). Using paper towel, pat dry the vegetables before you add them into the oil. Deep fry until they’re tender. Be careful not to over/under cook. When they’re done, drain the oil on a wire rack or paper towel.
- Next, coat the chicken in potato starch and deep fry at 340F (170C) for 5 minutes or until golden brown. If the chicken is being browned too quickly, adjust the heat and make sure the chicken is cooked through. Drain the oil well on a wire rack or paper towel.
- When the chicken is done deep frying, heat the wok and toss the deep fried vegetables and chicken together. When they are re-heated evenly, pour the Black Vinegar Sauce over the chicken and vegetables, toss and combine. Transfer to a plate and serve.
Recipe slightly adapted from Ootoya Tori Kurozu-An recipe.
Are you new to deep frying? Read a post about How To Deep Fry here.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.