Friday, August 13, 2010

Karaage - Japanese Fried Chicken

This weekend I am off on a small journey. Hussyband and I are catching the train and ferry to the Isle of Wight for a weekend of frivolity, Garlic Festival, drinking and silliness. Now, every good journey needs a good meal, and let’s face it people, train food in the UK is just god-awful. So, with this in mind, I bought myself a tiffin. 4 pretty boxes held together with a clasp, in shades of green and blue (I wanted pink, but Hussyband does not share my love of all things pink and would refuse to carry it - and possibly eat from it.)

So, I have 4 trays to fill - the top one is easy, olives and semi-dried tomatoes, the second one with sliced meats, the third with some cold quiche (to soak up the icy beers that will be in a strategically placed bag) and karaage.

I first tried karaage when I was in a small smoke filled izakaya in Osaka almost a year ago. Now, when you are holidays, you usually get up to things you would not dream of in the RealWorld. I normally wouldnt wear a silly mask and do karaoke...ok I would do karaoke, but not in a silly mask. Normally I would try to avoid anything deep fried, but when in Rome (or Osaka) one does what one must. It was crunchy and tangy and....oh my. It was just so damned good, especially with a 1 litre glass of cold Asahi, a flask (or 3) of sake and my beloved sitting opposite me sharing food.

On returning to Sydney, we immediately started to plan our move to London, and an embargo was placed on me buying anymore recipe books. But one more might have slipped in. It had to. It covered so many delicious things that I had eaten, so many foodie memories. Izakaya - The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson, was a way to remember some awesome nights drinking and singing and yelling PAIZURI! at the top of our lungs to the eternal amusement of the salarymen who we inevitably ended up drinking and laughing and swapping slang and special words with.

The book is more a guide to some amazing restaurants and chefs, and is interspersed with over 60 recipes that will make foodies hearts go a-flutter.

My take on karaage has been refined over a couple of attempts and versions - skin off, skin on, sake, no-sake...but now for your feasting pleasure I bring you the perfect picnic food.

500g skin-on boneless chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sake
3 cloves of crushed garlic (please, whatever you do, do not use jarred garlic - it is wrong wrong wrong)
an inch or so of ginger grated
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mix everything together in a big glass bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and shove it in the fridge for an hour or so to marinate. While it marinates, have a glass or two of chilled sake, as it is wrong to only waste sake on food, in fact in some prefectures it is probably a crime which would see a samurai ct off my head, so drink 3 to be safe.

Using a heavy based saucepan or frypan (or deep fryer), bring oil to the boil.

Remove the chicken from the fridge, and removing as much excess marinade from the chicken, drench a piece at a time in the cornflour and immediately place it in the oil, and cook until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Now here is the tricky bit. Serve it hot with lemon wedges, or if you are patient enough to wait, cold with lemon wedges. A couple of bottles of Asahi and some sake will round it out pretty bloody good as well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Great Rivington Lobster Massacre

Let me tell you a story of 4 maidens, cast adrift on a harsh unknown sea. There were two Australians, a South African and a Swede. They had found themselves on a desolated shore – no bars, no restaurants, no shoe stores....and then like a mirage on the horizon, they spied their salvation. Glittering in the distance, a purveyor of fine food and beverage...The Rivington Grill in Greenwich.

OK, so I am being a tad melodramatic, but living in South East London, there is a distinct lack of awesome dining options for hungry TwEaters. More so in Woolwich Arsenal where KangaRue and I make our home, slightly better across the river where CookSister resides, and Cathy257? Well Gotenberg is home to some of the best restaurants in Sweden, but she was staying in Holland Park in West London – so it was a double trek for her to catch up with us.

I had met CookSister at Food Blogger Connect a few months ago, and we have stayed in touch on Twitter, this was our first chance to catch up in person since, and her first meeting with KangaRue and all of us were meeting Cathy257 for the first time. And look that, I am rambling already!

We started the evening with a drink on the outdoor terrace...ok it was the second drink for Kanga and I, but she is a bad influence at all times and I accept no responsibility.

Moving inside, we settled in to view the room, and the menu. A wonderfully crusty hot loaf of bread with salty butter was deposited on our table. The smell of freshly baked bread is only surpassed by the smell of rain on hot asphalt and freshly mown grass for me, and I was in a very happy place.

3 of the 4 of us decided to be unoriginal and go for the Heritage Tomato Salad with Lovage and Wensleydale. KangaRue bucked natural order and went for the Chilled Beetroot and Horseradish Soup.

My salad was gorgeous – about 6 or 7 different types of heritage tomatoes that tasted like they had just come off the vine, served at room temperature so the full flavour was apparent with creamy shards on Wensleydale cheese. Kanga’s soup was gorgeous to look at (hey I like pink bits!) and tasted of the earth with a nice kick in the back of the nasal passage from the horseradish as it went down.

I also am on a quest – to try as many different oysters in the UK as I can get my tongue around. So, on seeing oysters on the specials board, and there being no minimum, I ordered one for myself. Now, as luck would have it, the kitchen stuffed up – so we got 3...poor Kanga missed out as these little suckers were lush.

When the waitress had been talking us through the specials of the day, it had been a unanimous decision that we were all going for the Lobster Special. A whole lobster served with chips, and a rich luscious unctuous mayonnaise. Now, I know you are thinking “She has just quit her job and is ordering LOBSTER?” But, as we had booked an online special, we were getting 50% off the really was very affordable.

The lobsters arrived, and they were, well, they were huge. With a large separate dish of crispy fluffy perfectly salted chips that on their own I would have been happy with....but I had a whole lobster before me. And so, after thanking the crustacean gods for their sacrifice, I dived in. There were juices flying, shells cracking and flesh sucking....all accompanied by the sounds of 4 women in a happy food place.

As the piles in front of us grew small, our bellies and the plate of discarded shell grew significantly larger. 1 lobster makes for a lot of shell....4 makes for a mountain!

By this stage our asses were getting numb, as the chairs were not the most comfortable for a long leisurely session, so we moved to the couches to digest and contemplate....could we fit in dessert? Why yes...I believe we can! Just.

CookSister and I had been eyeing off the Honeycomb Ice Cream with Hot Toffee Sauce since we arrived at the restaurant...and were heartbroken to be informed it was sold out. We took them up on the offer of good old fashioned vanilla, with the toffee sauce and were very happy. Thick oozey toffee goodness was a perfect accompaniment to the icecream which cut it nicely.

Kanga went for the chocolate mousse, which she was disappointed in (I tried it – and have to agree that I got the better pud!) Cathy went for the Eton Mess – her first ever!

Of course, booze was consumed....but like the bad blogger I am, I was too happy by the end of the night to remember what it was. All I can say, was it was really good, and there was a lot of it.

In summary: lovely company, great food on the most part, lots of booze, laughter and silliness. Bad points: chairs not so comfie, tables to close together, choccie mousse needs work.

All in all a great night, and cant wait to do it again. South East London Foodies Must Unite!

For other versions of this dinner please see Cathy and Kanga's blogs!