A dish born after Japan ended its isolationist policy and welcomed Western influence, the earliest version of chicken nanban was originally part of the “staff” menu in a restaurant called London in Nobeoka City. But “chicken nanban with tartar sauce” as we know it today came later — an invention of a former apprentice at London.
To make this dish, start by making the tartar sauce. You want to do this ahead to allow the flavors to blend while you prep the two other components of the dish.
Make the sauce by boiling together mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and salt until both the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Pour the sauce in a shallow bowl and cool.
A tip: choose a bowl that is wide enough to hold the fried chicken fillets in a single layer. That way, every piece of chicken will touch the sauce.
While the sauce cools, season your chicken fillets, dredge in starch then deep fry until golden and crisp. Depending on the size of your wok or frying pan, do this in batches so that the chicken pieces and swim freely in the hot all.
When all of the chicken pieces have been fried, lower them into the cooled sauce. Soak then flip each piece and continue soaking. Soak for how long? Well, that depends on how strong you want the chicken flavored. It can be as short as 30 seconds or as long as three minutes per side.
For the tartar sauce
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 tablespoons pickle relish drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion squeezed
- ¼ cup Japanese mayonnaise
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lime lemon or lime juice, or to taste
For the marinade
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- salt to taste
Make the tartar sauce
- Shell the eggs and crush using the back of a fork.
- Mix the eggs with the rest of the ingredients for the tartar sauce.
- Set aside.
Cook the marinade
- Boil together the ingredients for the marinade until the sugar dissolves.
- Pour into a shallow bowl and cool.
Cook the chicken
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with the potato starch.
- Heat the cooking oil and fry the chicken, in batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about two to three minutes per side depending on the thickness.
Marinate the chicken
- Place the cooked chicken in the marinade in a single layer. Allow to soak for half a minute to three minutes per side.
Assemble the chicken nanban
- Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate (leave the excess marinade behind) and spoon the tartar sauce beside them.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallions before serving.