A Sushi Chef’s Top-Notch Recipe for Chicken Nuggets

How to make your chicken "sing"

February 14, 2023 6:30 am
Togarashi Nuggets
Togarashi Nuggets

When it comes to the perfect chicken nuggets, there’s no higher authority than Chicago sushi chef Kaze Chan.

Hear us out.

With more than 20 years of experience, Chan hasn’t just trained under some of the best sushi pros in the world. He’s also become a master in his own right, with stints at Kaze Sushi, Macku Sushi and Momotaro. If you’ve had excellent sushi in Chicago, chances are, the chef has trained under him.

If we learned anything from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it’s that precision and care go hand-in-hand with the art of making this sought-after Japanese delicacy. And at Chan’s Sushi-San, that’s just as true of the 18-course omakase menu as it is his more playful “specialties”: dishes inspired by Japanese street food with some contemporary, international flourishes. Think “tako tacos,” featuring spicy octopus in a crispy nori shell, or roasted edamame with garlic oil. One of the most sought-after of these offerings is undoubtedly his togarashi chicken nuggets, seasoned with a unique spice blend and fried until crisp.

“At Sushi-San, we love to find ways to build a bridge for our guests between the familiar and the new,” says Chan. “This dish accomplishes some of that.”

The nuggets are inspired by karaage, a Japanese frying technique that results in ultra-crispy chicken. Chan capitalizes on the traditional use of chicken thigh for even more juiciness and flavor.

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“While our recipe varies in some ways from a traditional preparation, we agree that chicken thigh is the way to go,” he says. “Keeping the skin on also helps to keep the meat tender on the inside while it gets crispy on the outside.”

Before it meets the frying oil, the chicken is breaded in a flavorful coating seasoned with a spice blend including two kinds of salt and four kinds of pepper, not to mention the ichimi togarashi seasoning that gives the dish its name. These ingredients join a mixture uniting traditional panko with matzo meal — a choice the chef says actually has its roots in the American South.

“Many traditional Southern chicken recipes call for the use of crushed crackers as a component of the breading for fried chicken,” he says. “Matzo meal is a super dry crumb that adds great crunch and texture to the breading mix when fried up.”

At the restaurant, the chef serves these nuggets with a house-made aioli seasoned with green kosho, a fermented combo of minced poblano, anaheim and banana peppers with Meyer lemon zest and sea salt. But such a condiment can be time-consuming for a home cook, who may not have the time or inclination to make a slow ferment — so the chef has offered an easy work-around: a “dressed-up ranch” made by combining your favorite dressing with lime zest, a dash of hot sauce and extra black pepper. It’ll add just the right pop of acid to help these crispy, crunchy morsels of chicken truly sing.

Togarashi Chicken Nuggets

Servings: 1

  • For the seasoning salt
  • 2 tablespoons shio salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sansho pepper
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Ichimi togarashi
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
  • For the breading
  • 2 tablespoons Manischewitz matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons fresh panko
  • ½ tablespoon seasoning salt (recipe above)
  • 1 pinch (⅛ tablespoon) ichimi togarashi
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds, crushed
  • For the chicken
  • ½ pound chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons egg white
  • 4 tablespoons togarashi breading
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • Frying oil
  • Lime wedge, for garnish
  • Lime zest, for garnish
  • Cilantro, for garnish
    1. Combine all of the ingredients for the seasoning salt. Set aside.

    2. Combine all of the breading ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix until well combined.

    3. When ready to make the chicken, heat the frying oil in a Dutch oven to 375º F. Portion the chicken into small pieces, and coat each piece with egg whites. Toss the coated chicken in the togarashi breading mixture, shaking off any excess.

    4. Once covered in the togarashi breading mixture, immerse the chicken in the hot oil for 4 minutes, turning once halfway through using tongs, until golden brown and cooked through. Be sure not to crowd the nuggets.

    5. Place the chicken nuggets on a roasting or cooling rack, and season immediately with the seasoned salt and a touch of lime zest. Garnish with lime wedge and cilantro.


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