Whilst Japanese cuisine is known and loved the world over, some of Osaka’s most delicious dishes draw on, at least a little, external influence. Torikara sticks
Indeed “fusion cooking” as it is known in the US and elsewhere, has been a recurring feature of Japanese cuisine for decades now.
Fusion involves the mixing of food cultures from two or more countries to create a completely new taste experience.
One of the more recent, though also tastiest examples of this unifying of food cultures is the Torikara Stick.
What is a Torikara Stick?
You will, no doubt, already be familiar with “karaage” the Japanese take on battered, deep-fried chicken, similar in some respects to the world famous Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, Karaage has its own unique flavour and distinct texture that sets it aside from the rather generic and, in my opinion, rather boring taste that characterizes KFC. Karaage is also a whole lot healthier than KFC, given the way it is prepared and drained of oily residue prior to being served fresh out of the fryer, whilst KFC can sometimes sit in a hot box in the restaurant for hours, gathering all manner of fatty residue and nearby bacteria.
Traditionally Karaage is served in a bowl or a basket, usually in portions of 6 to 8 pieces. However Torikara Sticks do this differently. Designed as a snack rather than a meal, Torikara Sticks offer pieces of Karaage served on skewers to be eaten on the go. It is the perfect example of adapting a popular dish to suit a busy, bustling city like Osaka. One notable difference between Torikara and other Karaage dishes however lies in the fact that Torikara usually only uses chicken breast meat, whereas Karaage can also use the thighs and indeed other parts of the chicken too, where appropriate.
Varieties of Torikara Stick
For something as simple as fried chicken on a stick, there is a suprising depth and variety to the numerable ways in which Torikara Sticks can be enjoyed.
First of all, you can choose the portion size, dependent on whether you are in need of a filling dinner or just a quick snack. Most Torikara places offer the choice of one, two or for the especially hungry, three pieces of Torikara on a single skewer. You will also, in most cases, have the option of enjoying a “chicken in a basket” style meal, with pieces of chicken alongside french fries and the sauce of your choice.
Sauces are where you can really experiment with different taste sensations while enjoying yout Torikara. There are a great many different sauces and garnishes on offer depending on where you buy your Torikara Sticks from.
Some examples include cheese, honey mustard, sweet and sour sauce, ketchup, mayonaise and even curry powder.
Personally, I’m a fan of the honey mustard over my chicken, and if I’m having french fries, a little ketchup on them too.
Where to buy Torikara Sticks
As a street food, the best place to try Torikara is undoubtedly from a street seller or “yatai” as we call them in Osaka.
Unlike other street foods however, which are most commonly sold at stalls in and around the Dotombori area, the best place to try Torikara Sticks in Osaka is about 7 or 8 minutes walk away from the Dotombori, in Amemura, Shinsaibashi. There are a number of stalls around here, popular with Osaka’s younger trendsetters who sell Torikara Sticks as well a number of other delicious and popular snacks.
Another good place to enjoy Torikara Sticks specifically is in Namba at Kin no Torikara, about 10 minutes on foot from Amemura, and close to Namba Subway Station and Dotombori.
How to make Torikara Sticks
Of course if you can’t make it to Osaka anytime soon, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. You can make your own Torikara Sticks at home, and here’s how:
This recipe will enable you to make 4 or 5 pieces of Torikara, so could work for one or two people depending on how hungry you are. I tend not to bother putting the chicken on skewers if I’m cooking at home, but of course if you want to, then go right ahead.
Adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly if you want to make more:
300 grams of chopped chicken breast fillets.
½ cup of potato starch (for the coating)
3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (or cooking sake if you can find it)
a dash of pureed ginger
2 crushed garlic cloves.
Dash of lemon juice
Begin by pouring your soy sauce, wine vinegar, ginger, garlic and lemon juice into a bowl, stir well into a cohesive mixture.
Add your chopped chicken pieces into this mix, rub in the chicken into it to ensure each piece is coated completely and thoroughly. Put this bowl in the fridge and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the chicken out of the fridge, pour away any excess liquid from the chicken. At this point, add in the potato starch and again rub the chicken into it ensuring complete coverage.
Finally, preheat your oil in a deep fryer to 180 degrees Celsius. Drop a little excess potato starch into the oil to see if its hot enough. If the fragment floats, you’re good to go.
Fry your chicken 3 or 4 pieces at a time for around 4 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove the cooked pieces to a plate, dab with kitchen roll to remove excess grease and oil.
Serve with a slice of lemon and optionally the sauce of your choice!