Tori Namban-zuke is a versatile Japanese recipe that can be served hot or cold. This recipe is quick and easy, but allow time for the chicken to marinate over-night. It will keep in a refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make it ahead in preparation for a busy day at work, or even better, for a party.
This recipe illustrates an influence of Portuguese traders on Japanese food: it uses hot red peppers and the combined techniques of frying and marinating.
The years between 1549 and 1639 are sometimes called the Namban Period in Japan. Chinese and “Southern Barbarians” (Namban) were permitted to trade only through the port of Nagasaki.
Obviously, this trade affected art, clothing, architecture, religion… but this is a blog about food.
The Portuguese empire, built for profit and trade, extended to Brazil, parts of Africa, India (Goa), South East Asia, and Japan. This trade brought many new foods and spices from one part of the world to another; of interest in this case is piri piri (small, fiery chilli peppers). The hot red peppers influenced the flavors of many cuisines, including Portugal itself. The small red peppers in Japan are called akatogarashi.
Eventually (Protestant) Dutch and English traders encroached on the (Catholic) Portuguese trade with Japan. This led Japan to enter a 200 year period of seclusion, retaining the Dutch as the sold Western trading agents. and that is another story…
Oh, and “zuke” means “to pickle” or “marinate.”
Chicken in Spicy Vinegar Marinade
The original recipe is meant to serve 2, but because this can be a planned second meal, I have adjusted it. [original amounts are in brackets]
- 4 boned chicken thighs, with skin 
Prick the chicken skin with the point of a knife or skewer. I dusted a little salt over the skin.
- one 3″ square kombu, soaked in 1 1/2 cups water for 2 hours [2″ and 1 cup]
- 1 1/2 cup rice vinegar (komezu) [1cup]
- 2/3 cup sugar [same–when I’ve made this in the past, it was too sweet]
- 3/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu) [1/2 cup]
- 5 small dried red chile peppers (akatogarashi) , seeded and sliced into thin rings or 1/2 tsp. cile pepper flakes
Remove the kombu from its soaking liquid. Discard the kombu. In a saucepan, bring the kombu stock, rice vinegar, sugar, and shoyu to a very gentle simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add the chile. Reserve.
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 naganegi long onions, white parts only , or young thin leeks, or green onions, cut into 1 1/2″ lengths
Heat the oven to 350°F.
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the long onions and cook over medium heat until they are slightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and add to the reserved marinade.
Heat the oil in the skillet again. Brown the chicken on both sides, paying special attention to making the skin nice and golden.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Transfer the chicken to an oven-safe dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked.
Cool the dish until you can add the marinade without fear of shocking the glass (ie: cracking). Or, if you love washing dishes, transfer the chicken to another non-reactive glass (or stainless steel) dish, and pour the marinade over.
Refrigerate overnight or for as long as 5 days.
To Serve Cold:
Slice the marinated thighs, arrange attractively in dishes, arrange the onions with the meat, and pour a generous amount of the vinegar marinade over.
Serve the chicken slices over a salad. Plain lettuce, or greens and slices of grilled vegetables. Dress with a bit of the marinade. Or put slices of chicken in baby endive leaves–like a wrap, and dip them in the marinade.
Or to Serve Hot:
Reheat the chicken and the marinade (microwave or oven). Serve it with fried potatoes and smooth French-style mustard.
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