Ultimate Guide to Chicken Nanban: Recipe & Perfect Pairings

Imagine biting into a succulent piece of chicken, perfectly fried and then soaked in a tantalizing sweet and sour sauce. That’s the essence of Chicken Nanban, a beloved Japanese dish that’s as delightful to eat as it is simple to make. Originating from the Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, this dish has won hearts with its unique blend of Western frying techniques and Eastern flavors.


In crafting the flavorsome Chicken Nanban, gather these carefully selected ingredients to replicate the authentic taste from Miyazaki Prefecture.

Chicken and Marination

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: Lemon wedges for serving

Equipment Needed

To make Chicken Nanban at home, you’ll need several kitchen tools that will help you prepare this dish efficiently and safely. Here is a list of equipment that you’ll need:

  • Deep Fryer or Heavy-Bottomed Pot: A deep fryer is ideal for frying the chicken to achieve that golden, crispy exterior. If you don’t have a deep fryer, a heavy-bottomed pot will work just fine. Ensure it’s deep enough to safely submerge chicken pieces in oil.
  • Kitchen Thermometer: Monitoring the temperature of your oil is crucial for perfect frying. Aim for a temperature range of 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C). A kitchen thermometer helps in maintaining this temperature, ensuring your chicken is perfectly cooked inside without burning the exterior.
  • Mixing Bowls: You’ll need a few mixing bowls of various sizes for marinating the chicken, making the sauce, and mixing the garnishes.
  • Whisk: A whisk is necessary to blend the sauce ingredients smoothly, ensuring the tart and sweet flavors are perfectly combined.
  • Tongs: Tongs are essential for safely placing the chicken in hot oil and removing it once fried. They help keep your hands at a safe distance from the hot oil.
  • Paper Towels and a Plate: Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to drain the excess oil from the fried chicken. This keeps your chicken from becoming soggy.
  • Sharp Knife and Cutting Board: A sharp knife will be needed to trim and cut the chicken into appropriate sizes for marinating and serving. The cutting board provides a stable cutting surface.

Each of these tools plays a pivotal role in making your Chicken Nanban not only delicious but also a visual treat. Make sure you have these items ready before you begin cooking to ensure a seamless and enjoyable cooking experience.

Prep Work

Getting your chicken and sauce ready is the first key step to making delicious Chicken Nanban. Here’s how you can prepare both components efficiently.

Marinate the Chicken

  1. Begin by cutting your chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. This will not only ensure that they cook more evenly, but also soak up the marinade better.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of mirin, and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Whisk these together until fully mixed.
  3. Add your chicken pieces to the marinade, making sure each piece is well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes, though for richer flavors, an hour or longer is better.

Prepare the Sauce

  1. For the sauce, take another bowl and add 1/2 cup of Japanese mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
  2. Incorporate 2 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of salt to balance the sweet and sour profile.
  3. Whisk these ingredients together until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
  4. Finally, finely chop 1 small onion and stir it into the sauce for an added crunch and flavor burst. This step is what gives Chicken Nanban its unique texture and taste.

Cooking Instructions

Now that you’ve prepped your ingredients and marinated the chicken, it’s time to cook. Follow these steps carefully to ensure your Chicken Nanban turns out perfectly crispy and delicious.

Fry the Chicken

  1. Pour oil into a deep fryer or a large, heavy-bottomed pot, ensuring there is enough oil to fully submerge the chicken pieces. Heat the oil to 350°F (175°C). Use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature for accuracy.
  2. While the oil heats, take your marinated chicken out of the fridge. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. This step helps the chicken cook more evenly.
  3. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, ensuring it is completely coated. Tap off any excess flour. This will prevent your oil from getting too cluttered with burnt flour particles.
  4. Carefully lower a few pieces of chicken into the hot oil using tongs. Do not overcrowd the fryer or pot. Overcrowding can lower the oil’s temperature too much and result in soggy chicken.
  5. Fry the chicken until it’s golden brown and cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. Turn the pieces occasionally for even browning.
  6. Once done, use tongs to remove the chicken from the oil and transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels. This will help drain off any excess oil.

Making the Nanban Sauce

  1. In a mixing bowl, blend the prepared Japanese mayonnaise, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and finely chopped onion.
  2. Whisk the ingredients together until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely and the sauce is smooth.
  3. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. The flavor should be a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, and savory.
  4. Add the fried chicken pieces to the bowl while they’re still warm. Toss gently with the sauce to coat each piece thoroughly.
  5. Let the chicken sit in the sauce for a few minutes to absorb the flavors. This step will amplify the dish’s overall taste.
  6. Serve your Chicken Nanban while it’s warm, garnished with optional toppings like thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds for an added touch of freshness and crunch.

Assembling Chicken Nanban

Now that your chicken is golden and crispy and your sauce is bursting with flavor, it’s time to bring them together to complete your Chicken Nanban dish.

Adding Sauce to Chicken

Begin by placing the freshly fried chicken in a large mixing bowl. Pour the tangy sauce you prepared earlier over the chicken while it’s still hot. This helps the chicken absorb the flavors more deeply. Gently toss the chicken pieces in the sauce, ensuring each piece is evenly coated. Allow the chicken to marinate in the sauce for a few minutes. This step is crucial as it lets the chicken soak up all the savory, sweet, and tangy flavors, which are characteristic of Chicken Nanban.

Final Touches

Once the chicken has marinated, transfer the pieces to a serving plate. Drizzle a little extra sauce over the top for added moisture and flavor. Now, sprinkle finely sliced green onions and a pinch of sesame seeds over the chicken. These garnishes add a fresh crunch and enhance the overall presentation of the dish. Serve your Chicken Nanban warm, paired with steamed rice or light salad for a complete meal. Enjoy the harmony of flavors and textures that make Chicken Nanban a beloved dish.

Serving Suggestions

Now that you’ve mastered the art of making Chicken Nanban, it’s time to round out your meal with some fitting accompaniments. The right sides can elevate your dish from a standalone entrée to a full, satisfying dinner.

Pair With Carbs

Start by considering a base of fluffy steamed rice. It’s perfect for soaking up the sweet and tangy sauce of the Chicken Nanban. For a heartier option, you might want to try soba noodles. Toss them lightly with soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar to echo the flavors in your main dish.

Add Some Greens

A light salad works wonders alongside the savory richness of Chicken Nanban. Opt for a simple mixed greens salad dressed with a sesame oil and vinegar dressing. The crisp freshness of the salad will balance the deep flavors of the fried chicken.

Consider Soup

To bring a touch of traditional Japanese dining into your meal, serve a bowl of miso soup. Its mellow flavor complements the bold profile of Chicken Nanban without overpowering it. Plus, it adds a warming element to your meal.


So now you’re all set to whip up your very own Chicken Nanban! With its delightful mix of flavors and textures, this dish is sure to impress both your taste buds and your guests. Remember to enjoy it with the suggested sides for the ultimate dining experience. Happy cooking and here’s to a meal that promises to be as enjoyable to make as it is to eat!

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