Karaage (唐揚げ, 空揚げ, or から揚げ, [kaɾa aɡe]) is a Japanese cooking technique in which various foods—most often chicken, but also other meat and fish—are deep fried in oil. The process involves lightly coating small pieces of the meat or fish with flour, or potato or corn starch, and frying in a light oil. The foods are marinated prior to coating. The process differs from the preparation of tempura, which is not marinated and uses a batter for coating. Karaage is often served alone or with rice and shredded cabbage.
Karaage is often cited to have been popularized in the 1920s by the Toyoken restaurant in Beppu, Japan. The method was popularized because of the food shortages in Japan after World War II, specifically for chicken. Chicken was already a popular meal, but using the karaage method made it easier to cook, and provided a different way to eat chicken.
The Japanese heavy battered frying technique used for fried chicken, “karaage” (唐揚げ, karāge), has only been in Japan since the 1920s. It was originally introduced by the Chinese as a way of frying tofu for vegetarian meals and is unique as it uses soy sauce and rice wine in the cooking process. The "kara" in karaage refers to the Tang Dynasty and was historically used to describe things of Chinese or foreign origin.
Since the 1920s, the dish has spread widely throughout all of Japan. Karaage is mostly in reference to fried chicken, as the fried chicken has become the most widespread version of the cooking style. Karaage—the chicken version—is commonly available in convenience stores such as Lawson, FamilyMart, and 7-Eleven as a fast food item. It is also readily available in food stands throughout Japan.
When coated with starch, it is called Tatsuta-age. Tatsuta is the name of a river, but there are conflicting theories as to why it was called that.
Karaage is also widely available in festivals and food stalls throughout Japan. One such festival is the Oita annual Karaage Festival, where over 60 different shops participate to provide unique versions of the Japanese delicacy.
Since karaage has spread throughout Japan, there have been many regional takes on the dish, the most notable ones including: