Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Chicken nanban is fried chicken that’s been briefly marinated in a sweet-sour-salty and slightly spicy sauce or dressing called nanban sauce. The recipe for basic, make-ahead-and-stock nanban sauce is over on Just Hungry. Normally chicken nanban is deep-fried, but my bento friendly versions are either shallow-fried or simply panfried, cutting down a bit on the fat as well as avoiding the Fear of Frying that many people have. Quite a lot of popular Japanese bentos have deep fried items in them, but I usually to re-interpret the recipes so that they can be pan-fried or shallow-fried. (The chicken karaage that I have in the book for example is shallow-fried in a frying pan.)

Chicken nanban is often served smothered with tartare sauce. I don’t think that’s appropriate for bentos, but you can pack a little container of mayo with a few dill pickle slices or small cornichons with your chicken nanban, to have the flavors of tartare sauce in deconstructed form so to speak.. Tabasco is an interesting addition if you like things spicy.

Both recipes make 4 to 5 bento-sized portions, although these little nuggets are so good that you might find them disappearing rather fast.

The photo below shows the lower-fat pan-fried chicken nanban on the left, and the shallow fried chicken nanban on the right. They both taste great, though the shallow fried chicken nanban is closer to the original. (After the photo shoot this ended up being my lunch as-is, with a bit of nanban sauce drizzled on the lettuce as a dressing. It was terrific.)

Pan Fried Chicken Nanban

chicken-nanban-bf.jpg

By Makiko Itoh

Published: March 06, 2011

Japanese, chicken, bento-friendly

A panfried version of a popular Japanese chicken dish that us normally deep fried. The sour-sweet-salty nanban sauce is the key. This still has the nanban flavors, but leaves out the batter coating.

Prep time: 5 min :: Cook time: 10 min min :: Total time: 15 min

Yield: 8-10 pieces

Serving size: 2-3 pieces

Calories per serving: 80 t0 120 calories

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz (225g) boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) cornstarch or potato starch
  • light olive oil or other cooking oil of your choice
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) nanban sauce (choose one of the recipes here)

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and vinegar, massage well with your hands and then pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch or potato starch, just enough to coat them.
  3. Put the nanban sauce in a bowl ready to use.
  4. Heat up a frying pan over medium-high heat, and add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Cook until browned, then flip over and cook the other side until browned.
  5. As soon as theyre cooked while theyre piping hot, put them into the nanban sauce, and stir around to coat them with the sauce . Leave the chicken in the sauce for as long as you like; if you just want a bit of sourness, take them out after a minute or two, and if you want it stronger tasting, leave them in the sauce until cool. If you make them the night before, Id recommend taking the chicken out of the sauce when its cooled down, though if you love sour foods you can try leaving the chicken in the sauce overnight.
  6. Drain off the sauce to pack the chicken in a bento. optionally with tartare saucr or mayonnaise and pickles (see above).

Shallow-fried Chicken Nanban

chicken-nanban-bf2.jpg

By Makiko Itoh

Published: March 06, 2011

chicken, japanese, bento-friendly

This version of chicken nanban is shallow-fried in a frying pan. It has the thin egg-batter coating that is characteristic of the deep friedchicken nanban you get in restaurants.

Prep time: 8 min :: Cook time: 10 min :: Total time: 18 min

Yield: 8-10 pieces

Serving size: 2-3 pieces

Calories per serving: 120 to 180 calories

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz / 225g skinless, boneless chicken thigh or breast meat (dark meat is juicier, though its good with white meat too)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • cooking oil of your choice for frying (Use an oil suitable for deep frying, such as panut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, etc.)

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and vinegar, massage well with your hands and then pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch or potato starch, then dip them into the beaten egg.
  3. Have the nanban sauce ready in a bowl.
  4. Heat up about 1/2 inch / 1 cm of oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken pieces as soon ad the oil is hot enough so that a bit of the eggy batter dribbled into it gets cooks instantaneously. Fry until golden brown, Do not overcrowd the pan.
  5. As soon as each piece is done, immediately put it into the nanban sauce. Leave the chicken in the sauce for as long as you like, as with the Panfried Chicken Nanban.
  6. Drain off the sauce before packing into a bento box.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

10 comments

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Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

I used to have this at the Joyfull family restaurant when I lived in Japan. Aaah, happy days :-)

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Ah, I had no idea that the restaurant-style, battered chicken nanban existed! The only version I have tried is the one on http://www.youtube.com/user/cookingwithdog which I admit I strayed from my usual vegetarianism for, just for one bite! I think I used thighs rather than breast - I like the flavour, but I like the price even more! Anyway, will definitely have to try out both of these versions on the fella (and maybe have a nibble again!).

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Maki, I'm going to try these with veggie 'meat'--mmmm! Thanks. I am pregnant and need to gain weight, then add in the sour dimenion--I'm yours!

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

This looks super tasty! Just out of curiosity, what does 'nanban' mean? Because it sounds like 'what number' but that seems like a weird name for chicken, lol.

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

There's a full definition of what 'nanban' means over the nanban sauce recipe page linked to on Just Hungry.

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Absolutely delicious!
I thought that Chicken Karaage was as good as it got but I was wrong.
I made the Classic Nanban recipe but didn't have any konbu or chillis so used a pinch of dashi powder and a large pinch of chilli powder. Then I made recipe 2 -the shallow-fried chicken nanban. I cooked a reasonable amount for 2 as a meal plus at least 1 left-over portion for an obento the next day. Not so -there was nothing leftover!

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Hello Maki

I have been an avid reader of just bento for a long time now, and I would just like to say I adore your recipes, this has to be the favorite one though I made it yesterday for the children including the nanban sauce version 2 for their bentos, and they loved it, the sauce is simply devine, decadant, dark and with amazing depth ,thank you for sharing best wishes to you

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

Hey,
I really want to try this recipe, but I don't have alot of time in the morning to cook alot of food for my obento. Is it possible to this the night before and just let the chicken settle in the nanban sauce overnight?
Also does it have to be eaten warm, because I'm bringing my obento to a place wednesday, and I'm not sure if I will have the capability to heat up my food later on in the day.

Re: Chicken Nanban 2 ways

you can make this overnight and pack it and keep it in the fridge til youre ready to go the next morning.
this kind of meal is perfect at room temp.

hi there :)

so happy i found this website. and when i see your name, it reminds me of my japanese friends.
one called Makiko Takahasi and the other is Hitomi Itoh. hahhaa.
nice to know you :) keep posting!!

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