Karaage: Fried Chicken

In America, while fried chicken is a traditional food, it certainly isn't considered a traditional Christmas food. Not so in Japan, where on Christmas Eve millions of people stand in ridiculously long lines for hours at a time to pick up their fried chicken at KFC. That's right, the American fast food chain, KFC, is Japan's go to Christmas meal. 

How on earth did this happen? you might be asking. Well, it all started in 1974 with a brilliant marketing campaign that caught on and has only escalated since then. Since Japan is not a Christian country and that religion has had very little progress there (only around 1% of Japan is Christian), Christmas is a fairly recent acquisition. I'll write more about this in a separate post, but pretty much after the war, Japan embraced such American traditions as Santa Clause, Christmas Trees, and sweets. It's still not a national holiday but it is widely celebrated and four years after KFC's debut in Japan they decided to claim Christmas Dinner.

Even though we have just gorged ourselves on turkey a month beforehand, it is still considered a Christmas dish in America. However, turkey is impossible to find in Japan, so when some foreigners decided to settle for fried chicken for their holiday meal, KFC jumped on the band wagon. The ad campaign, “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) was a huge success, striding into a holiday that was still in its infancy in Japan. 

Today, it is the biggest time of the year for Japan's KFC. The lines are so long, sometimes two hours or more, that some people order their meals as much as two months in advance. Can you imagine ordering fast-food in advance? If you're thinking that at least it is an inexpensive meal, you'd be wrong. The "Chicken and Champagne" meal sells for 3,336 yen ($40). 

Personally I don't care for fast-food chicken, but I did want to try making some for the Christmas season. In Japan, fried chicken is called karaage, and it is a pretty easy meal to make. I've used a different recipe before for making bento, but this time I used one from Japanese Cooking 101. So what makes karaage different from your standard southern fried chicken? For starters, the chicken is marinated in soy, sake, ginger, and garlic. Then instead of egg and flour it is just coated in a mix of flour and cornstarch. It makes for a crisp piece of meat with a delicious flavor. 

So if you're looking for something a little different this Christmas, why not take a leaf out of Japan's book? No, not by going to KFC, but by making up a batch of your very own crispy chicken!

Until next time, remember not to wear your favorite santa sweater while frying.