Chicken nanban is a crispy chicken dish which originated in the Kyushu region of Japan. Nanban, which directly translates to “European” in Old Japanese, comes from the influence of European traders and missionaries in Japan during the 17th century. The chicken is usually deep fried, but my version is a liiiiittle bit healthier since it’s pan-fried. Once the chicken’s been fried, it is lightly seasoned with a sweet, sour and savory sauce. Chicken nanban is traditionally served with tartar sauce, but mine is served with a quick Japanese sweet potato salad and some tossed arugula.
The Japanese sweet potato, (which I am loooooorve) has purple skin and a golden yellow flesh. A little more mild in sweetness than a yam or regular sweet potato, they can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. I like to make Japanese sweet potato muffins when I have the sweet potatoes on hand, but they are also equally delicious simply roasted in the oven and served with a little coarse sea salt and butter.
The Japanese sweet potato salad is a great side dish to Japanese chicken dishes, like the Chicken nanban, but also pairs well with panko fried chicken (chicken katsu). This particular recipe calls for rice vinegar to be added to the potato salad, but if using Japanese mayonnaise (such as Kewpie), you can omit the rice vinegar.
Note: Though this recipe uses a bone-in-skin-on chicken thigh, chicken breast can also be used. If using chicken breast, cut each breast horizontally so you have 2 to 3 thin pieces of chicken. The chicken breast will only need to be pan-fried and does not require any oven time.
I food styled this shoot, and the photos were shot and are owned by White Loft Studio*
2 Bone-In-Skin-On Chicken Thighs
1 Japanese Sweet Potato sliced into 1/2 inch thick coins
1 Inch Piece Ginger grated
3½ Tablespoons Rice Vinegar divided into 2 tbsp and 1.5 tbsp
1 Tablespoon Mirin
1½ Tablespoons Soy Sauce
½ Teaspoon Aleppo Pepper (can be subbed with any red pepper flakes or omitted completely)
1 Shallot minced and divided
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Baby Carrot thinly sliced horizontally
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
3 Ounces Arugula
Step 1: Boil the Japanese sweet potatoes
Set oven to 350°F.
Bring a small pot of water to boil over high heat. Add Japanese sweet potato coins and boil for 20 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Step 2: Make the Ginger Sauce
In small bowl, whisk ginger, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, and aleppo pepper (if desired).
Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and whisk until combined. Add the minced shallot and combine. Set sauce aside.
Step 3: Dredge the Chicken Thighs
Crack eggs into medium bowl and whisk to break the yolks.
Dust each chicken thigh with our and then dip in whisked eggs to coat. Place dredged chicken thighs on plate.
Step 4: Fry the Chicken
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in oven proof skillet over high heat. Once skillet is very hot and just starting to smoke, place chicken skin-side down. Let fry 5-7 minutes, then ip and cook another 5 minutes on the other side.
Place skillet in oven to finish cooking for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Make the Japanese Sweet Potato Salad
Once cool enough to handle, peel sweet potatoes. Mash the cooked sweet potatoes in small bowl and add the rest of the rice vinegar and let cool.
Add carrots, remaining minced shallots, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and mayonnaise. Mix to combine.
Step 6: Make the Arugula Salad
In medium bowl, toss arugula with 2 tbsp of the ginger sauce prepared in step 2.
Plate the Dish
Place one chicken thigh on each plate. Divide arugula and Japanese sweet potato salad between the two plates.
Drizzle 2 tbsp ginger dressing over the crispy chicken (you may have extra ginger sauce leftover.)
*These photos shot by White Loft Studio were from a recipe kit start-up that is now defunct