Mini Chicken Katsu with your Favorite Spice Blend

Crunchy chicken tenders (Japanese chicken katsu) by Season with Spice

What is a wet kitchen

A leaky pipe under the sink?  Beer spilled on the counters after a party?  Orange juice sticking to the floor tiles after my nephew dropped the carton?

I had never heard of the term ‘wet kitchen’ before I moved to Malaysia.  But my guesses of a messy kitchen were not far off. 

frying chicken tenders in a wok for katsu

A wet kitchen is where the cooking is done.  I’m not talking about baking cookies here.  Where the real cooking is done.  Where a giant wok hides the angry flame of the stove, with a puddle of restless oil on the bottom, cracking and spitting on your shirt.  Where spices and herbs and vegetables are thrown in because there’s no time to measure.  Where you use a metal spatula like a sword, to slash at the cloud of steamy oil that envelops you and sticks to your face and hair.  Where you clank your sword on that wok so loud just to alert your neighbors not to call the fire department.  Where chicken and fish cook in seconds, not minutes.  Where you emerge like a dirtied, bloodied boxing champion into the dining room, holding a spectacular dish.  That’s a wet kitchen. 

That may have been a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.  The purpose of a wet kitchen – an open air kitchen area with a stove and large sink, as well as counter space for cutting raw meat and vegetables – is to prevent all that mess and smoke and smell from polluting the house.  If you know what Malaysian Sambal Belacan is, you know the point of a wet kitchen.

frying chicken tenders with spices & herbs

While I’m in Malaysia with a wet kitchen, I’m taking advantage of it by starting today with an easy recipe that is perfect for experimenting with spices.  A way for you to find your own favorite spice blend.

Just remember that if you get any funny stares at the dinner table, it’s not the delicious Chicken Katsu, it’s the oil splattered on your shirt.

Crunchy chicken katsu recipe by Season with Spice
Chicken tenders with spicy peri peri sauce by Season with Spice

Mini Chicken Katsu with your favorite spice blend  
by Season with Spice

1 pound of boneless chicken breasts – cut into strips
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
3 ice cubes
1/2 tbsp of cold lime or lemon juice, or water
1 cup panko flakes
1 cup of palm oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)

The process:
1. In one bowl, place the chicken strips, and then in a separate bowl, mix the flour, spices (or experiment with your own spice blend), powders, and salt.
2. Pour the mix over the chicken, and then get your hands dirty rubbing the mix on the chicken strips until fully coated.
3. In another bowl, stir together the egg yolk and lime/lemon juice, and then add the ice cubes (when the mix is cold, it will end up crispier).
4. In a third bowl, pour the cup of panko flakes.
5. Then in your ‘wet kitchen', pour the oil into the wok, and heat on high.  The oil should be ready after a few minutes, but you can check by sticking the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, and if bubbles form around it, the oil is ready.  When ready, turn the flame down to medium-low (Safety note: Never heat oil unattended.  And to prevent a fire, please understand the concepts of the smoke point and flash point of cooking oil)
6. Take two chicken strips at a time and first soak in the egg mixture, and then roll into the panko flakes until fully coated.  Place chicken strips immediately into oil and fry for a few minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Remove the chicken and place on a tray lined with paper towel.

Try chicken katsu with a bowl of Japanese udon noodles.