Yelly Eats

How to make: Chicken Karaage

I’ve been unwell and when I’m unwell my body craves comfort food.  Unfortunately, this means I have to cook said comfort food.  Not that I mind so much, because I do love to putter about in the kitchen.  It’s just that this weekend, I’ve been left with so little energy that I, almost, couldn’t be bothered.

I’ve had chicken karaage from a few places and I must say that this is probably one of my favourite versions of fried chicken (closely rivalled by Korean fried chicken — soy ginger please!).

I’ve tweaked my version of chicken karaage, and this time, I’m using mirin, instead of using Shaoxing rice wine, in the original recipe I posted, funnily enough, almost 4 years ago.  Chicken karaage uses sake, which I have never had the pleasure of tasting.  I’ve switched to using Japanese mirin to inch closer to finding out what home cooked karaage tastes like.

I do love it though and I hope you will too!  As always, if you try any of my recipes, I would love to hear from you and your cooking experience.

Ingredients:

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into large-ish bite-sized chunks
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g cornflour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

Directions:

  1. In a ziplock bag, combine chicken, ginger, garlic and soy. Carefully massage the chicken through the bag and marinade for at least 1 hour (better if you let the chicken marinade overnight though).
  2. In a bowl, mix the cornflour, flour and salt, and coat the chicken pieces with the cornflour-flour mixture until the pieces are dry to the touch.
  3. In a frying pan, heat up the vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop chicken pieces and fry until golden brown (should take about 3-4 minutes).
  4. Serve with a slice of lemon or a teriyaki sauce, on its own or over a bed of fluffy steamed rice!  Speaking of rice, I wrote a post on how to cook rice perfectly (I’ve been cooking rice since I was 11 so I like to think I know what I’m talking about – way before there were non-stick pans!).

Here’s a little recipe on sticky sauce that goes well with the karaage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 200ml water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Once boiling turn the heat right down and allow to reduce until there is only half of the liquid, making sure that you stir occasionally so that none of the sugar burns.  This is brilliant as a little sauce to be sprinkled (sparingly) on steamed rice if you’re having friend chicken or fish.

Yelly Eats

Telling my cooking story

I was a card carrying member of Del Monte Kitchenomics Club.  Now declaring this might be revealing my age, but I did join it whilst I was still in 6th grade (which is now probably equivalent to middle school in the States and Year 7 here in the UK).

Most of what I call my specialties were learned from the back of those Del Monte canned food labels.  My pineapple crumble was learned from a can of Del Monte pineapple chunks label, and this recipe started me on my baking and cooking journey.

I have a dish that I call skillet paella or arroz con chorizo which is a one-pot rice meal that is sort of like a short cut version of the popular Spanish rice dish.  This was also a recipe I got off the back of a Del Monte label, this time a tomato sauce can.  I’ve done and redone the dish and I probably can cook this by sight and still have it taste exactly how I want it.  I think it’s because I’ve been cooking this for more than half my life.

I wrote about the dish in an earlier blog entry and called it Arroz con Chorizo, because it, to be honest, it sounded fancy!

It was this dish that did on Instagram stories last week.  If you missed it, you can always look at the link above and try the recipe I’ve written down.

I’ll update this entry as soon as the tech cooperates with me and I can upload my photos properly!

I still have to resume the cookbook project that was put on hiatus because, well, life got really busy.  But the moment I allowed life to get busy, I lost my balance.  I think I need to get back to creating yummy things through baking!  I need to regain the equilibrium.

Yelly Eats

Best wings this side of the Atlantic!

This was first published as a review on Tripadvisor.

I love me a good chicken wing, so when the invite came to go to Randy’s Wing Bar, I said yes. I am partial to chicken well done. I think it has something to do with growing up on home cooked fried chicken with mash as a staple Sunday lunch. So I’m always on the look out for places that specialise in chicken (be it fried, southern fried, roasted, steamed…the list goes on and I will probably give it a go!).

We sort of wandered into Randy’s Wing Bar…virtually. After hearing about Randy’s, we looked at the reviews and for the most part, people were raving about the wings. Which was good, because,if you’re going to specialise in something, you might as well do them amazingly well, right?

We booked a table for a Monday evening. They have eat all you can wings on Mondays at the Here East location, but remember, you can’t eat all you can if you don’t book. You pay £14 for each person plus the price of drinks plus 12.5% service charge. One important thing to note, if you want to wing all you can, your choices are limited to 3 variants: buffalo, gangnam (Korean-inspired flavours) and Kansas wings. BUT it is TOTALLY worth it.

We arrived at 7, as booked, and we were efficiently showed to our seats. The place was already alive with the music cranked up and everyone laughing and chatting. It is a bar so expect a vibrant atmosphere. Because we said it was our first time there, our server explained the “mechanics” of the eat all you can wings promotion. You each ordered a wing flavour, and you must all finish your plates before your party can order the next round of wings. I think they just didn’t want people to waste wings.

I started with my favourite flavour, the Korean-inspired wings called Gangnam. The wings were succulent but I guess it depended on who was cooking the wings because mine were a bit to soy saucy. My idea of Korean style food is a good combination of soy, sesame, garlic, spring onion and ginger. I found that it wasn’t quite the balance that I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the wings were amazing. But the glaze didn’t blow me away, flavour-wise.

The next plate I tried was the Kansas wings. And they were VERY GOOD. I make a good Kansas dry rub so I was prepared to be disappointed. But as soon as I took a bit, I went OMG! The flavours were as authentic as I thought they could be. It was a good balance of spicy, tangy and a great kick of heat. Kansas would be proud.

The star of this particular show, though, were the buffalo wings. The reviews weren’t fudged…the wings were sooooooo good. My barometer for good buffalo wings are that they’re not too hot, just right to make your mouth feel this zing brought on by the chilli, but there is a flowery note that hits your mouth too. I know this sounds all too fanciful for just a bowl of wings, but that’s what I was expecting and I got all that in spades! A good bowl of buffalo wings come with an excellent blue cheese dip and Randy’s did not disappoint. i don’t know if they make their own blue cheese dip, but it was really good. The buffalo sauce and the blue cheese dip were amazing. I’d begged the server for an extra helping of blue cheese sauce because I was afraid I’d burn my mouth on the buffalo sauce (it has happened before that people made their buffalo sauce atomically hot). Our server didn’t forget. The buffalo sauce was amazing and the wings came already drizzled with the blue cheese dip, so really, I didn’t need the extra. But because the blue cheese sauce was so good, I didn’t mind finishing it anyway!

Like I said, the bar atmosphere was alive and the noise levels were slightly high. I wasn’t too bothered about this because it was a bar. The music was good though…it added to the experience. It was nice, if slightly dark. I kind of felt like someone was a little heavy-handed with the dimmer. But there was enough lights from the light fixtures overhead for you to see exactly what you were eating. I did like how they furnished the bar…I don’t know if they meant you to have an American bar feel, but it felt like it. Each table has rolls of kitchen roll because you will need them to wipe your fingers. There are a selection of the usual sauces as well. They bring you a bucket for your wing bones and tissues and several packs of lemon scented wipes, which are also handy. I love that they consider the little details like this – it shows that they thought of the entire customer experience!

There are other sauces/glazes available for the wings. They also have burgers and a selection of sides. They only have one dessert item, a dulce de leech brownie that looks amazing! But if it’s like their wings, it’s going to be absolutely amazing. I’ve seen the pictures and it looks amazing!

You can make your way to Randy’s Wing Bar by walking through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (if you’re feeling virtuous and want to make sure you deserve the meal), or you can get one of the shuttles from the Stratford Bus Station that go to Here East (we didn’t know you could get a shuttle when we were going!). If you look on the maps, it looks like it’s a short walk from the Hackney Wick station, but I can’t be sure.

To date, I can safely say, these are the best buffalo wings I’ve tasted in the UK. I am looking forward to going back because at £7.50 per serving of wings, it is great value for money because the bowls are sharing sized.

Yelly Eats

BIRD is not the word

Given the choice between beef, poultry, pork and seafood, I would choose poultry over pork, then seafood then beef.  Beef is probably the best source of protein, but I would chicken over most meats any day.

In the last quarter of 2014, I wrote about my Chicken Bucket List.  It was a list of up-and-coming places to eat that specialised in chicken that I wanted to try (the London food scene is alive, well, vibrant and varied!).  I must admit, the underlying criteria was that the places needed to serve some sort of Southern fried chicken-style dish.

It was their claim that they “served the best free range fried chicken you’ve ever tasted” that drew me to wanting to try their food.  I mean it’s a very brave and bold claim certainly.  The people at Bird must trust their food that much to make that sweeping generalisation.

I went to the Shoreditch restaurant and got there fairly early (I had misjudged how quick it was to walk from Liverpool Street station to the Shoreditch location – clearly I did walk faster than I thought).  So anyway, I was cool with having to wait outside and sit on the benches situated outside the restaurant.  It was fine.  Besides, Shoreditch is a very interesting place and there will always be something to see.

Bird ShoreditchSo when the restaurant finally opened (nearly 45 minutes later than what was on the doors), my tummy was rumbling excitedly.  I love Southern fried chicken, and while I cannot claim to be an expert, my Spit and Roast-inspired buttermilk fried chicken is really good.  Bird was one of the very few places at the time that served chicken and waffles.  I was hoping to get gravy and maple syrup.

More Bird spaceThe space was okay.  Nothing too styled, it was clean and not cramped, if a little dimly lit (it was located right next to a bridge, almost under it, so I wasn’t expecting a space awash with light!).  The decor was kitschy but cute, with framed caricatures of chickens.

Bird SpaceThe staff were nice enough, seating us in one of the table-chairs-banquette spaces that was nearer the Bird doughnut hatch, on the left side of the restaurant.  It was quiet and I loved the fact that it was the quieter side of the room.  I was ready for a relatively spiritual experience.  After all, we were talking about chicken and waffles here!  So orders (from slightly smudged menus) were taken and I ordered what I came to order: fried chicken and waffles (I was disappointed that it didn’t come with gravy as I’d wished, but that was my fault because I didn’t check out the menu online before I went.  They didn’t have any gravy on the menu).

Bird menuThe service was friendly and efficient and soon, plates of chicken pieces and fresh waffles were slide in front of us.  I’m not sure whether it was just that it was the early hour or if it was just the location.  But my chicken looked wrong.  I know that they battered their chicken and they didn’t bread it, but I found it a bit awkward that the chicken piece I was given had a scaly bit exposed – don’t get me wrong, it didn’t affect the flavour, it was just not pleasant to see.  We do eat with our eyes as well.

It went downhill from there.  I visited their website that evening and it does say that their chicken isn’t Southern fried chicken.  It’s fried chicken.  Granted it is fried, but you do get succulent fried chicken.  My chicken was dry and overdone, painfully so.  I’m not too certain how the chicken is prepared, whether it’s brined or marinated in buttermilk, but my piece of chicken wasn’t battered very well.  The batter had a bitter aftertaste, probably signalling that it had been left a little too long in oil that was a little too hot.  Mind you, I’ve incinerated enough chicken so I wasn’t too fussed so much.  It was just that the chicken was so dry that it was quite a struggle to adequately make a dent in the two pieces of chicken that my two waffles were served with.

Bird chicken and wafflesThe waffles were really nice, if a little on the light and thin side.  I loved that it was more savoury than sweet with the addition of spring onions.  Usually the waffles, in my humble opinion, provides the sweet element, to the sweet-salty flavour combination (the salty element provided by the chicken).  It was a refreshing change to have a properly savoury waffle.  It was great to be able to drench it in proper maple syrup.  I must say that I would probably happier just having the savoury waffles and the maple syrup instead.  But the restaurant is meant to specialise in poultry (its name is Bird).

Bird wafflesI realise that everyone has their opinions and food is a relatively subjective experience.  But I was disappointed.  It wasn’t the chicken experience I was expecting, and for me, it wasn’t the best free range fried chicken experience.  I probably won’t go back to any of the other Bird locations.

Sadly, for me, BIRD was NOT the word.

Yelly Eats

The (Chicken) Bucket List!

Chicken is probably my favourite meat.  I mean, truth, currently have a lot of pork in my freezer at the moment (I once had a 2kg pork shoulder joint hiding in the bowels of my tiny freezer) but my meat of choice is chicken.  It’s so versatile and is probably the healthier option (granted, fish is probably the healthiest option but if you want a perfect middle ground, trust me, poultry is king!) than pork or beef.  I’ll take chicken any which way.  I love it baked, broiled, stewed, poached, steamed, roasted, barbecued…I could go on.  I’d probably eat chicken however way it’s prepared. I may have already done so.

My all-time favourite chicken dish, however, is Southern fried chicken.  I loved it so much that every time I hear of a chicken place that claims to serve “proper” Southern fried chicken, I ask Alan if we can go and try it out.  Thankfully, Alan is almost always too happy to indulge this particular obsession.

I’m truly grateful that Alan shares my passion for finding the perfect fried chicken (Southern).  We scour – well, okay, scour is probably too strong a word – we peruse social media, read through the food section of newspapers and magazines to read about these chicken-serving places and make mental notes of the places that we want to visit.  We’ve discussed chicken places to death so it dawned on me that the next step in this fried chicken journey was to put together a list of chicken-serving places that we wanted to try.  So we’ve written up a rough list of the places we’ve either tried or want to try.  The qualifying characteristic?  They claim to serve some sort of fried chicken.

And so…presenting our chicken bucket list!

1.    Roost
2.    Spit and Roast
3.    Mother Clucker
4.    Bird
5.    Clock Jack
6.    Wishbone
7.    Red Dog
8.    Jubo
9.    On The Bab
10.    Stax
11.    Ruby Jean’s Diner
12.    Joe’s Southern Kitchen and Bar
13.    Chooks
14.    Meat Liquor
15.    Rita’s Bar and Dining
16.    Eat 17
17.    Jackson and Rye
18.    Clutch

So watch this space as I write through the (chicken) bucket list!

Yelly Eats

Saturday night non-takeaway: Chicken Karaage!

So tonight I finally made chicken karaage and it was good!

Well, when I say karaage, I use the term very loosely.  Karaage is a Japanese dish of chicken marinated in ginger and garlic, soy and sake, and is fried to lovely crispy pieces.  I don’t have sake in my cupboard on a regular basis (I’ve never had sake in my cupboard, ever!) but I do have shaoxing and sherry (as I cook more Chinese dishes than Japanese).  So I tried substituting the sake with the shaoxing.  I think it works.  I will save up for sake, but for the meantime, shaoxing in the recipe works.  And works well, if I say so myself!

Oh, I didn’t have potato flour (aka potato starch) as well, so I’ve substituted it with cornflour.

Ingredients:

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into large-ish bite-sized chunks
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 heaping tablespoons cornflour
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

Directions:

  1. In a ziplock bag, combine chicken, ginger, garlic and soy. Carefully massage the chicken through the bag and marinade for at least 1 hour (better if you let the chicken marinade overnight though).
  2. In a bowl, fish the chicken out of the bag and mix with the cornflour until all chicken pieces are well-coated with the cornflour
  3. In a frying pan, heat up the vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop chicken pieces and fry until golden brown (should take about 3-4 minutes).
  4. Serve with a slice of lemon or a teriyaki sauce, on its own or over a bed of fluffy steamed rice!  Speaking of rice, I wrote a post on how to cook rice perfectly (I’ve been cooking rice since I was 11 so I like to think I know what I’m talking about – way before there were non-stick pans!).

Chicken karaage

Here’s a little recipe on sticky sauce that goes well with the karaage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 200ml water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Once boiling turn the heat right down and allow to reduce until there is only half of the liquid, making sure that you stir occasionally so that none of the sugar burns.  This is brilliant as a little sauce to be sprinkled (sparingly) on steamed rice if you’re having friend chicken or fish.

Sticky sauce

Yelly Eats

An Ode to Gallus

I love chicken.  If you ask me what I miss most from the Philippines, it will probably be Chickenjoy from Jollibee (a fastfood restaurant in the Philippines) and fried chicken from Max’s (am not quite sure this is a fastfood restaurant but it is Filipino and I grew up going to Max’s!).  So it follows that when I moved to the UK, I would look for a chicken place to go to.  And I thought I’d found a great chicken place.

We discovered Gallus, Empire of Chicken on Timeout.  They were offering a £10 voucher for a £25 food spend.  Alan said that as it was £10 for £25 of food, you couldn’t really complain.  So we looked on the website and thought, what the hey, it’s something new.  So on our next trip to London, off we went to Gallus!  And let me tell you, £25 bought you a lot of food!

Gallus offered a lot of chicken choices – you had chicken skewers, chicken burgers, salad with chicken, sides (there were chips, side salads, coleslaw…and a lot more that I can’t remember!), desserts and a good selection of drinks!

Gallus Mexican chicken salad

We went back several times because the chicken was genuinely good.  Because the chicken was marinated in several ways, you never really got bored of the chicken choices.  You could go Mediterranean, Oriental, South Asian or Latin American.  You could go mild, spicy, or umami.  The servings were generous and it was excellent value for money.  The staff were polite but very attentive and they knew their product – we never felt there was a question too silly about the food they served!

But if you notice that I keep talking in the past tense, it is, sadly, because Gallus has closed.  We walked past the Charing Cross Road restaurant to find that all the windows were papered and the sign has been removed.  I know that they didn’t really have a lot of footfall whenever we went (I think we managed about 4 trips – it was conveniently close to the theatres so it was brilliant for pre- and post-theatre meals) but I had hoped they were more popular and that people would cotton on to the fact that they were good.

Gallus chicken burger

It is sad that in the wonderful melting pot of wonderful places to eat that is London, Gallus was eaten up, swallowed and spitted out like, dare I say it, chicken bones.  If you didn’t get to eat at Gallus, you missed a great chicken place that served succulent chicken pieces that offered a better option than KFC for almost the same price.

I have high hopes that Gallus will rise from the ashes like another fowl of myth.  And maybe this time, their marketing will be much better and people will flock to the empire of chicken!

Gallus chicken skewers