I recently did something I haven’t done in years — deep fried chicken!
Regular followers of this blog know I have an aversion to deep fried foods, and generally avoid making them and even ordering them at restaurants. But last weekend I was going to a potluck with my food blogging crew — Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, Christina of East Bay Dish, and Brenda of Bites and Bourbon (Brenda actually hosted us at her new home) — and because they always don’t order fried foods when we go out, I decided to make this fried chicken dish to make up for all the fried foods they missed out on because of me.
Mochiko chicken, or what I always referred to simply as mochi chicken growing up, is a popular dish in Hawaii. It’s the dish many people bring to potlucks because it’s easy to make and is always a sure winner. Mochiko is the Japanese sweet rice flour used to make mochi, which is the sticky rice candy. But when you use mochi flour in the chicken batter, it creates a chewy texture that’s different, and then the equal parts of cornstarch provide bits of crunchiness.
It’s sorta like fried chicken nuggets, but the soy sauce definitely makes it an Asian fried chicken.
Since I’m not a fan of deep-frying because of it’s unhealthy aspects, I did some research before making my mochiko chicken to make sure I reduce all the bad aspects of deep frying as much as I could. First, I used a heat thermometer to make sure the oil is always at the perfect temperature for deep frying, which is between 350 to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the oil is not hot enough, the food absorbs the oil, which makes it greasy. But if it’s too hot, then it burns on the outside before it’s really cooked inside. Using a thermometer monitoring the heat help my mochi chicken nuggets come out golden brown.
Second, I researched various oils and found that the one with the least saturated fat that is also reasonably price is grape seed oil. (Coconut and avocado oil are healthier, but they’re also expensive and you need quite a bit of oil for deep frying, another reason why I’m not a fan.)
I did have to taste one nugget to make sure it was cooked through, and it brought back memories of all those Hawaiian potlucks. And it seemed to go over well at the party too. So if you want another twist to fried chicken, try this Hawaii favorite. Enjoy!
Makes six servings
2 lb. chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1/4 cup mochiko flour (Japanese sweet rice flour)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
5 T soy sauce
1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (including green part), reserve some for garnish
1 T toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
In a medium bowl, create the marinade by combining mochiko, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, eggs, and green onions. Make sure everything is blended. Then cut chicken into bite-size pieces like nuggets. Try to get them all uniform in size so they’ll cook evenly when deep-frying.
Add chicken to the marinade (use your hands to massage the chicken pieces to make sure they’re all covered by the marinade), cover and refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight. TIP: For convenience, use a large plastic ziplock bag to easily store your chicken in the refrigerator and to allow the marinade to cover all the chicken.
When ready to cook, fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with grape seed oil (or other healthy oil) at least up to two inches high (I ended up using about 2 quarts of oil). Over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s at least 350 degrees (use a thermometer to make sure it’s always around 350 to 365 while cooking).
When the oil is hot, add the chicken one nugget at a time to fry. Do it in batches to make sure you don’t crowd your pot. The nuggets will tend to find each other in the flurry of deep frying, so use wooden chopsticks or a wooden spatula to gently separate the nuggets. Cook until golden brown, typically you’ll know they’re ready when the nuggets start to float up. But if your pot is too crowded or the oil too bubbly, it might be hard to tell when the nuggets float up. Cook one for about five to six minutes then remove and let cool. Then cut into it to make sure it’s cooked inside. If it’s cooked, use that cook time for the basis for the rest.
Here’s a video I posted on Instagram when I started deep-frying the chicken, something I haven’t done in more than 20 years:
When removing chicken from the oil, place on a wire rack covered with paper towels to absorb as much of the oil as possible. Let cool and then plate and garnish with sesame seeds and fresh green onions.
TIP: If you’re traveling with your fried mochi chicken to a party, let it cool before covering otherwise the chicken will get soft and lose some of its crunch. If you just fried the chicken and it’s still cooling but you need to go, simply cover your container with the chicken with a cloth towel like picnic napkins.
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