Japanese chicken nuggets
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Japanese chicken nuggets

3 hours
to marinate the chicken

Susan says

Chicken breast is one of the foods I would never order in a restaurant, and the only time I am certain that I can eat it without wishing for something else is when I cook it myself, which I rarely do.

People tend to overcook chicken, because they are afraid of getting salmonella or another food-born illness that usually comes from the way the meat is processed. Overcooked dark meat is still edible, but overcooked chicken breast is dry and stringy.

Brining chicken breast not only adds flavour, it also changes the texture so that it’s less stringy. It’s essential to weigh the meat, so you know the correct amount of salt to add.

Shichimi togarashi (often shortened to just shichimi) is Japanese seven spice powder that contains, among other ingredients, chilli powder, which will give a hint of heat to the chicken nuggets (if you like more heat, add more shichimi). Shichimi is sold in small containers because the colour fades when exposed to air.

Furikake (or rice sprinkles) is dusted over cooked rice to add colour and a salty, umami flavour. Furikake is available in an enormous range of mixes: common ingredients include sesame seeds, small pieces of shredded nori or shiso leaves, crumbled dried egg or mentaiko (salted fish roe), dried fish such as salmon or katsuo (fermented skipjack tuna), wasabi, and spring onion. Use whichever type you like for this recipe.

As always with fried foods, I double fry. The first frying, which can be done up to an hour before you serve the food, cooks the meat. The second crisps up the coating and should be done right before serving.


500-600g (18-21oz)
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
fine sea salt, as necessary
garlic cloves, peeled
zest of half a lemon
30ml (2tbsp)
fresh lemon juice
75g (½ cup and 4 tsp)
plain (all-purpose) flour
large eggs
50g (1¾oz)
panko (breadcrumbs)
furikake of choice
shichimi togarashi, or more to taste
black or white sesame seeds
cooking oil, as necessary
For serving
Kewpie mayonnaise
Shichimi togarashi

Weigh the chicken breasts, then multiply the weight by 0.015 – this is the amount of salt you will need, in grams. Weigh out the correct amount of salt.


Cut the chicken breasts into one- or two-bite pieces, then put them in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the meat and mix well.


Finely mince the garlic and add it to the bowl.


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Use a fine-tooth grater (preferably a rasp-type one, such as a Microplane) to grate the zest of half a lemon over the chicken pieces. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Put the bowl in the fridge and marinate for about three hours (or up to six), mixing occasionally.


Put the flour into a shallow bowl or pie tin. Whisk one of the eggs and put it into a bowl.


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Put the panko into a shallow bowl or pie tin. Add the furikake, shichimi and sesame seeds and mix well.


Pour cooking oil to a depth of 2.5cm (1 in) in a pan. Heat the oil to 175 degrees Celsius (345 degrees Fahrenheit). Drain the chicken pieces.


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One by one, dip the chicken pieces in the flour to coat them completely and shake off the excess, then coat with the egg. Dredge in the panko-spice, and press on the chicken pieces so the mixture adheres.


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Once you have several pieces of coated chicken, place them in the hot oil and fry until slightly undercooked – about 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the size (the meat will finish cooking with the residual heat). Do not overcook the meat. Take the chicken pieces out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Fry the chicken in batches; do not crowd the pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken, and, if necessary, whisk another egg to use for the coating.


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Just before serving, heat the oil to 180 degrees (350 degrees F). Fry the chicken pieces again for about 15 seconds; it’s OK if you crowd the pan slightly. Drain on paper towels.


Pile the nuggets onto a dish and serve immediately, with a side bowl of Kewpie mayonnaise sprinkled with shichimi, for dipping.


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