Kaiyo’s Alex Reccio Shares His Recipe for Fried Chicken and Waffles, the Nikkei Way
Nori-spiked panko and a chicha morada syrup testify to the Japanese and Peruvian influences
Chef Alex Reccio’s Kaiyo is a temple to Nikkei cuisine, a culinary marriage between Peruvian ingredients and Japanese techniques. But the Lima native is taking the innate fusion of this style one step further with innovations inspired by the country — and city — that conquered his heart at the tender age of 18.
“This city taught me to be a human being in the simplest of senses,” Reccio says of San Francisco. “When I came here in 1992, the city and its people were different, and I soaked up everything about this town and its culture. I learned to eat vegetables here, learned to be picky about wine, learned not to overcook a hamburger, and particularly, this city taught me how to be a decent person, fair with those around me and curious about my trade and profession.”
The city also became a launchpad for Reccio’s nationwide travels, evident in his play on karaage (Japanese fried chicken), which boasts a slightly Southern accent — settled, as it is, atop a savory corn waffle generously seasoned with fresh green onions.
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The dish began, as so many of his do, with inspiration found in “everyday situations.”
“In this particular case, my sous chef and I were comparing the tonkatsu technique to other breading techniques in different cuisines,” he explains. “Then the ideas started flowing in the right direction.”
It took a few days to get the recipe down pat, but the resulting dish is perfect any time from brunch to dinner.
It begins with chicken thighs, which Reccio prefers over chicken breasts for their depth of flavor. First marinated overnight in buttermilk, the chicken is seasoned in spiced flour and nori-spiked panko for crunch, at which point the morsels are deep-fried and settled atop the sweet-and-savory waffles.
At the restaurant, Reccio’s finishing touch is both purple and Peruvian: a chicha morada syrup made by reducing the traditional corn juice until it’s deeply concentrated and then sweetening it with sugar. But in a pinch, maple syrup would make a delicious swap.
Alex Reccio's Chicken Karaage & Corn Waffles From Kaiyo
- For the chicken:
- 1 lb. chicken thighs, butterflied and pounded to ¼-inch thickness
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. mustard powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 cup panko
- 1 nori sheet
- 2 eggs
- Frying oil
- For the waffles:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup corn kernels
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ cup melted unsalted butter
Cut the chicken into pieces, season with salt, and submerge in the buttermilk. Cover with plastic and marinate overnight in the fridge.
The next day, make the waffle batter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, corn and vanilla. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk thoroughly to combine. Add the melted butter and whisk to combine. Let rest for one hour.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and drain. Combine the flour, cornstarch and seasonings. In a food processor, process the panko and nori together. Set aside.
Beat the eggs and dredge the chicken first in the flour mixture, then the egg and finally the panko. Set on a surface covered with panko or a wire rack until all of the pieces have been coated.
Preheat the frying oil to 375ºF and preheat and oil the waffle iron. Fry the chicken until golden brown and set aside on a wire rack to drain. Make waffles according to the instructions on your waffle maker. Plate the chicken on the waffles, and serve with the green onions and the syrup of your choice.
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