Crispy, juicy fried chicken served on a bed of tender rice, this Karaage Rice Bowl will be an instant hit with your family! The chicken is marinated in a Chinese seasoning of soy sauce, ginger, sweet bean sauce, and sesame oil before frying to golden and coated with a savory scrumptious sauce.
Every now and then, I find myself in a situation where take-outs seem like a reasonable resort to a weeknight family dinner. What do you do to feed your family on a day like this? Do you give in and order take-out?
To resist the temptation of take-outs or eating out, I have been calling on the power of Japanese donburi or don (short for donburi) dishes to feed my family of four. With an incredibly easy template of changing up protein and vegetables all in one bowl, donburi dishes have been my secret to stress-free weeknight meal plan, especially when I’m battling with both hungry family and hectic schedule.
Today I’m sharing one of our family’s favorites – Karaage Rice Bowl (中華風唐揚げ丼)! There’s a seriously crave-worthy crispy chicken strips and fluffy steamed rice for everyone to enjoy.
Easy Karaage Rice Bowl
Karaage, pronounced kah-rah-ah-geh, is Japanese style fried chicken that is as popular as gyoza. There are many different ways to season the chicken, but the marinated chicken is always coated with potato/corn starch or flour and deep-fried until golden brown.
Today’s karaage is seasoned with a Chinese condiment called the Tianmianjiang 甜麵醬 (sweet bean sauce), which gives the chicken a distinctive Chinese flavor. The sweet bean sauce not only flavors the chicken, it also imparts a sweet piquancy and umami to the sauce.
Although chicken thighs are always the preferred choice when comes to making Karaage, chicken breasts would work just fine if you pound the chicken to equal and thinner layer. Since you don’t need to trim off the excess fat, this cut of meat is great when you’re pressed for time.
To speed things up, I usually throw the chicken in the marinade in the morning before I send my kids to school, so it’s well seasoned by the time I’m ready to make it for dinner. As I have my steamed rice automatically cooked in the rice cooker, I just need to work on frying the chicken, while I make a miso soup with vegetables on the stove, and prepare a salad or may be a side dish if I am ambitious enough. It’s something that I can hustle together for a satisfying weeknight meal for the family.
3 Tips to Make Karaage Rice Bowl
1. Cut the chicken breast into equal thickness and equal size strips.
When you want to be efficient in cooking, it’s important to cut your ingredients into same thickness and sizes. This simple rule of thumb allows you to control the cooking time and the ingredients’ doneness.
For this recipe, you want to pound the chicken pieces so they are of equal thickness and cut into same size pieces before frying. This way, you can ensure the chicken will be cooked thoroughly at the same time.
2. Use equal amount of all-purpose flour and potato starch (corn starch).
To achieve the ultra crispiness for karaage, you want to use an equal part of all-purpose flour and potato/corn starch for the batter. With over 2 decades of my karaage making experience, I have tried different ratios and ingredients to coat the chicken. They are all good, but I think this ratio yields the best result. If you’re gluten free, just swap all-purpose flour with rice flour and you would get a great result too.
3. Proper Deep Frying Technique
Deep frying for the first time can be intimidating, but I hope my How to Deep Fry tips will help you get started. For this recipe, you will only need a small amount of oil. You can use either a shallow frying pan or a cast iron skillet, or use a smaller saucepan to deep fry small batch at a time. The rule to live by when comes to frying is never crowd the oil.
Once the chicken are done and nicely brown, place them on each individual rice bowl. Finish off with a quick drizzle of the sauce, Japanese mayo, and garnish with chopped green onions and strips of nori. Scrumptious and doable, this easy karaage chicken rice bowl will be your dinner savior.
Karaage Rice Bowl
For the Seasonings
For the Sauce
- Before You Start: Gather all the ingredients. For the steamed rice, please note that 2¼ cups (450 g, 3 rice cooker cups) of uncooked Japanese short-grain rice yield 6⅔ cups (990 g) of cooked white rice, enough for 3 donburi servings (5 cups, 750 g). See how to cook short-grain rice with a rice cooker, pot on the stove, Instant Pot, or donabe.
- Butterfly and cut 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half. I also separate out the chicken tenders.
- Pound the chicken to equal thickness with a meat tenderizer or the back of a knife. Then cut into ½-inch-wide strips.
- Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Mince or crush 2 cloves garlic and add to the bowl. Add 1 tsp ginger (grated, with juice).
- Add the rest of the ingredients for seasonings: 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp tianmianjiang (sweet bean sauce), 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 large egg yolk, ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix and coat the chicken well with the marinade. Keep in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer.
- Combine ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) and ⅓ cup potato starch or cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk well together.
- Heat 3 cups neutral oil to 325–340ºF (163–171ºC) on medium heat in a saucepan or wok. Check to see if the oil is ready for deep-frying. Put a chopstick in the oil and when you see the bubbles around it, it’s ready!
- Coat a piece of chicken in the flour mixture and dust off the excess flour. Place 5 chicken pieces slowly into the oil in the wok. Do not crowd the wok.
- Deep-fry the chicken over medium heat for about 4–5 minutes. If the chicken gets brown too quickly, take it out and lower the oil temperature by reducing the heat a little bit and put the chicken back in.
- When the chicken is cooked and nicely brown, transfer to a wire rack or paper towel to drain excess oil. Make sure to pick up foams and crumbs between batches. The crumbs in the oil make the oil darker, so frequently skim it with a fine-mesh skimmer.
- For garnish, cut 2 green onions/scallions into small pieces. To make the sauce, combine 1 Tbsp soy sauce, ½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil, and the optional la-yu (Japanese chili oil) in a small bowl.
- Serve 3 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice in individual large donburi bowls and place the chicken on top.
- Drizzle the sauce and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise on top.
- Garnish with shredded nori seaweed (kizami nori) and the chopped green onions. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 8, 2011. The images and content have been updated in June 2017.