Today let’s discover together one of most iconic food in the Japanese gastronomy, Kushikatsu. This fried skewer became popular during the war era. It was a convenient and cheap food to fill the stomaches of the working class. It is said that the first skewers served were in Osaka in 1929 by the owners of the now legendary Daruma restaurant. Nowadays, Kushikatsu is still a street food the masses even though it is offered in some upscaled restaurants with unique ingredients.
Let’s discover together why this deep-fried “food of the masses” is one of the most consumed street food in Japan and find out where you can get some of the best Kushiage in the country!
What is Kushikatsu?
Kushikatsu, also know as Kushiage are battered and deep fried pieces of food on sticks. It can be made with meat, vegetables or cheese coated in egg, flour, and Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs); and deep-fried in vegetable oil. It sounds viciously delicious, right? Well, believe me, it is!
In Japanese Kushi refers to the bamboo skewers used while Katsu means a deep fried peace of food. The most common ingredients for Kushikatsu are meat and vegetables, but it can be made from almost anything. In fact some restaurants offer some very exotic varieties of it such as Kushi-Strawberries, Kushi-Scorpio, Kushi-Frog and Kushi-Alligator to please the most adventurous of us.
The sticks are usually served with a Tonkatsu sauce(which is some Japanese version of Worchester sauce), but depending on the region, there are different ways of dipping it : Plain salt, soy sauce, sesame oil , tartar sauce, miso, mayonnaise and other dip style sauce some times proper to the restaurant that serves them.
How to Eat Kushikatsu ?
Eating Kushikatsu in restaurants and bars is a unique experience. There are common pots of sauce over the tables to dip your skewers in. As the sauce pots are shared among customers, putting your stick in it after a bite is seen as a disgusting manner. Most of people deep their Kushikatsu very generously in the sauce before eating to make sure it has enough. But do not worry, you sauce lovers out there, if you did not get enough of your first dipping there is always an alternative solution. The restaurants provide big bowls filled with slices of cabbage on each table. This way not only they make sure you eat your veggies but as well give you an opportunity to scoop up some extra sauce from the pot and pour it on your Kushikatsu. Genius, right?
What Are The Varieties of Kushikatsu?
Prawn and shrimp (ebi), Japanese scallop (hotate or kaibashira), oyster (kaki), octopus (tako), squid and cuttlefish (ika), atlantic horse mackerel (aji), Japanese smelt-whitings (kisu), etc …
onion, bamboo shoot (takenoko), okra, bell peppers (pīman) sweet potato, Chinese yam (nagaimo) ,burdock root (gobou) (renkon), greater burdock (gobō), Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), broccoli, asparagus, tomato, shiitake mashroom, garlic and shishito pepper.
Beef (Gyūniku), Pork meat (Butaniku) , Sausage, Chicken, Chicken skin (Torikawa), Chicken organs, Horse meat (Baniku), Chicken or fish meatball made with egg (Tsukune), Cartilage (Nankotsu).
Cheese, Quail eggs, Chicken eggs, Mochi rice cake, Dumpling (including Gyozas), Pickled ginger (Benishouga), Ginko nuts, chestnuts, bananas strawberries and other fish products such as Chikuwa, Hanpen and Kamaboko.
Of course, each and every Kushukatsu restaurant has it’s little speciality. Some of them mix two ingredients together to double the deliciousness. And we won’t complain about that… Oh No!
Personally, my favorite one is definitely the cheese one. O M G! To die for !
Where to Eat the Best Kushikatsu in Japan?
The Shinsekai neighborhood in Osaka is undoubtably the best place in Japan to enjoy Kushikatsu. With it’s nostalgic atmosphere and endless options of Kushikatsu, Shinsekai is heaven for street food lovers.
I tried for you a restaurant serving Kushikatsu that is know to be the best in Osaka.
Daruma (the creator of Kushikatsu ) is such a famous restaurant that it has 3 locations in Shinsekai area. in Osaka. You would think that it would solve the long lines issue, Right? But no, even with that, I had to line up for more than 30 minutes to be lucky to try their delicious sticks. No regrets ! I loved it.
Address: 2-3-9 Ebisuhigashi Naniwa-ku Osaka, Japan
Location: 3 minutes from Subway Sakaisuji-line Ebisucho station.
Open Hour: Mon-Sun11:00〜21:00 (L.O. 20:40)
Now that I told you all about Kushikatsu you kind of hate me because you want to try it, and Japan is in the opposite side of the globe… What if I tell you that it is actually quite easy to make it at home for your self and your loved ones. You can even be creative with the ingredients and sauces, mix it up with some of your favorite recipes and adapt it to your taste.
How to Make Kushikatsu at Home?
First, cut into small chunks the meat, vegetable or ingredient of your choice. Season them with pepper and salt.
Next, skewer a few pieces on a wooden stick. Make sure to leave enough room at the bottom. It makes it easier to hold onto.
Once you are done with that, dip the sticks first into flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
Finally, fry them in medium-hot oil (about 170 °C or 340 °F). Make you sure you have enough oil to cover the sticks at least halfway. Cook each side about 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
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