Koji-fried chicken with chili honey

Over the past year, koji became one of my favorite ingredients. For those unfamiliar with it, koji is a type of bacteria or fungus that grows on rice or grains. It is used as a culture in Japanese cooking to ferment soybeans into miso paste. Because it is a fungus, koji contains natural umami in it, which can make foods taste better. Koji normally comes in either shio koji, which is a liquid form, or rice koji, which is rice kernels that have koji growing on them. When used in a marinade or dry rub, koji can make most proteins taste more succulent and juicy. So I figured, why not use it in a marinade for fried chicken, as it can make the chicken taste almost brined, while also tenderizing the meat and giving it a much richer flavor? Upon trying it, I would say that the koji-fried chicken was a legitimate success! I used it in a chicken thigh marinade, and it tasted delicious!

For the marinade itself, there is garlic, mirin, soy, koji, and rice vinegar, all of which work together to give the chicken thighs a lot of flavor, while also keeping them nice and juicy. I make sure to use boneless but skin-on chicken, as it keeps faster that way, but the chicken skin crisps beautifully when deep fried! My breading on the chicken thighs is super simple as well: it’s just rice flour. No eggs, no breadcrumbs, not herbs. Just rice flour. When deep fried, rice flour provides a super crispy exterior on the chicken. It absorbs both the marinade and the oil beautifully, allowing the moisture to stay in the chicken, and creating a wonderful crust as well. To finish the chicken with, we have a chili and soy-infused honey. Fairly straightforward, but delicious nonetheless! I feel like many households celebrate the holidays with fried chicken, and I would love for this recipe to end up on more holiday dinner tables than just my own!

For the marinade:
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp rice koji
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce

Blend together to form a paste.

For the fried chicken:
4 skin-on chicken thighs, halved and de-boned
Rice flour
Frying oil

Toss the chicken thighs in the marinade and place in a covered container. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes, but preferably longer. Toss the chicken in rice flour until coated. Fry the chicken thighs in at least 2 inches of canola oil that has been preheated to 375 degrees F for at least 3 minutes per side. The chicken is cooked when it’s fully brown, and the exterior is crunchy. You can also test with a meat thermometer(the chicken needs to be at least 165 degrees F to be fully cooked). Drain the chicken on a paper towel to remove the excess oil and dust with salt.

For the chili honey:
1 red jalapeño, sliced and stem removed
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar

Heat up everything until the honey and sugar are fully dissolved into the rest of the ingredients. Toss the fried chicken into the honey while both are still warm. Serve immediately!

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