Sometimes, you just need to say to yourself: “This isn’t healthy at all, but oh my, it’s delicious.
This is one of those times…
What is Kushikatsu?
Kushikatsu is one of those great foods that those in my native Scotland would probably describe as “pub grub”. It goes perfectly with a couple of beers and some good after work conversation.
Like so many great Osaka street foods, kushikatsu’s beauty lies in its sheer simplicity.
Basically, it consists of skewers of either beef, chicken, seafood or most commonly seasonal vegetables.
These skewers are then coated in a fine breadcrumb batter, and deep fried to perfection.
For added flavour, the skewers can be dipped into a rich, sweet katsu sauce. This sauce is similar to the sauce you’ll find on takoyaki or okonomiyaki, however the consistency is noticeably thicker, and sweeter to taste.
There is however, an important etiquette that must be observed when eating kushikatsu in a restaurant or bar.
Your sauce is served in a shared bowl, in the centre of the table. Typically it is shared between 4 or 5 people. It is very important that you follow the proper manners and hygiene here. Do not “double dip” any of your skewers, Make sure you get a good coating of sauce on your skewer because you’re only allowed to dip each skewer once!
Varieties of Kushikatsu
The basic recipe for kushikatsu is the same wherever you go, however the major difference comes in the different types of food that are coated in the kushikatsu breadcrumb batter.
Fans of the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken will feel right at home with the succulent chicken skewers in their deep fried breadcrumbs. If you’ve ever had some deep fried shrimp or Katsudon then you’ll know what to expect from the pork and the seafood. However, for me, the area where kushikatsu really comes into its own is with the vegetables. If you want to try some of Japan’s more exotic vegetables like yams, lotus root, and of course the famous shitake mushrooms, then kushikatsu is an excellent means of introduction that’s still easy on the palate.
Where to buy Kushikatsu
Although, like takoyaki and a host of other Osaka street foods, kushikatsu is available in supermarkets and some convenience stores, the fact that it’s frozen does have quite an impact on quality of the taste. Therefore, I can’t stress enough that to enjoy kushikatsu at it’s best, you really need to visit a restaurant or an izakaya. The best place, of course, though is a specialist kushikatsu restaurant.
In Osaka, this means a trip to Shin Imamiya and the area around the Tsutenkaku Tower that has a wide range of delicious kushikatsu eateries. Just tread carefully at night though, the area around Shin Imamiya Station can be a little sketchy.
How to make Kushikatsu
The great thing about kushikatsu is that there is no limit on what you can use in your skewers. Once you’ve perfected your batter and breadcrumbs, what you decide to coat with it is completely up to you.
So here’s a recipe based on my own ideas, but feel free to add your own inspirational touches as you see fit.
200ml of milk
200 grams of flour
1 box of breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 box of wooden skewers
For the meat and vegetables, use whatever you like, though I recommend avoiding the softer items such as cucumber and tomatoes as they don’t usually stand up well to deep frying.
First, break your two eggs into a bowl, whisk them thoroughly. Add the flour and milk and continue to whisk until your batter mix is of the correct consistency. Runny but not watery; thick but not creamy.
Next, pour your breadcrumbs into a big bowl. Give them a quick once over by had to make sure there are no rogue clumps of crumbs in the bowl and that everything is evenly distributed.
Now comes the fun part: making your skewers. Chop your meat and vegetables into bite-sized chunks, place them onto your skewers. Personally I like to mix up combinations of meat and vegetables, but if you like to just keep each foodstuff to its own skewer, then that’s fine too.
At this point, you should also pour the oil into your deep pan, or if you have a deep fat fryer, that’s even better. Pre-heat the oil to a high heat, but of course be careful to avoid splashes and always be careful around hot oil.
One by one, dip your skewers in the batter mix and make sure they are completely coated, before doing this again with your bowl of breadcrumbs.
Once the skewers are battered and breaded, drop them into the fryer for around 75 seconds, or until the breadcrumbs have turned a nice golden brown.
Serve immediately with a nice big bowl of katsu sauce. But remember, only one dip per skewer!
Kushikatsu may not be the healthiest thing you’ll eat during your time in Osaka, but I can promise you it will be one of the most delicious!