Popcorn Chicken Karaage

Rhubarb & Cod - Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Chili Lemon Sauce Recipe

chili1When I was a kid, my mom had this Chinese cookbook that I was obsessed with. I think the book was a Better Homes & Gardens situation dating back to the 70’s, so it wasn’t exactly all about authenticity, but it was my first introduction to home cooked Asian food. My mom would cook from it quite frequently, but would always side step the spring rolls or shrimp toasts in favour of tofu stir-fry with oyster sauce and other items that didn’t require a bath in hot oil – you know, healthy nonsense. But every year, for at least three years running, she would make me the lemon chicken recipe from that book and it was bliss every time.

Today’s recipe for Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Lemon Chili Sauce is a homage to those childhood birthday meals, but with a Japanese street food twist, because why the hell not?

Rhubarb & Cod - Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Lemon Chili Sauce Recipe

I took a page out of the book of fast food chicken tenders and nuggets and opted for all white meat (in this case, it actually is) popcorn chicken. I know most argue dark meat is more flavourful, but I thought more flavourful chicken encased in a fried exterior is overkill -almost too much flavour, if you will. This might be insane and if you believe it to be so, sub the two chicken breasts with six chicken thighs and do you!

Rhubarb & Cod - Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Lemon Chili Sauce Recipe

The other thing about this recipe is the Lemon Chili Sauce is like fire, like, actually! The beau and I love heat so we made it to our specifications. Feel free to knock the number of red chilies down (or up if you want to challenge me with your impressive heat tolerance) to two or one if you can’t deal – know your limit, play within it!

Rhubarb & Cod - Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Lemon Chili Sauce Recipe

Another thing about the Lemon Chili Sauce is it’s very tart. I like tart, but I understand that others do not. There are a few ways you can work around this overt tartness: you can either up the sugar by another 1/8 of a cup OR only juice one lemon and add some extra chicken broth to make up the difference in liquid. If neither of these options is giving you what you want, combine the two. The resulting sauce will be very true to the sweet lemon sauce they serve in Canadian and American Chinese restaurants and there is nothing wrong with that – again, you do you!

Now you have the knowledge to make the Popcorn Chicken Karaage with Lemon Chili Sauce of your dreams!

Go forth and fry!

Rhubarb & Cod - Popcorn Chicken Karaage Recipe - Popcorn chicken in paper cones.


Popcorn Chicken Karaage

Serving Size: 4 as a starter, 2 as a meal


    Popcorn Chicken Karaage
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (1- inch) knob of ginger, minced
  • 2 oz sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 5 cups canola oil
  • *Extra salt for sprinkling
  • Chili Lemon Sauce
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 red chilies, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Place chicken pieces, ginger and garlic in a medium-sized mixing bowl and cover with sake and soy sauce. Toss to coat the chicken and let sit for at least half an hour.
  2. While the chicken is marinading, combine chicken stock, sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, lemon juice, zest and chilies in a small sauce pan.
  3. Place the saucepan over medium heat stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to boil.
  4. Cook for 2-3 minutes more whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens enough to readily coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in a pinch of salt and sesame seeds.
  6. Cover the sauce and set aside.
  7. In a large bowl whisk together flour, the remaining cornstarch, pepper, salt and five spice powder.
  8. Roll the marinaded chicken pieces in flour mixture until completely coated.
  9. In a large wok, heat the canola oil to 350?.
  10. Fry chicken pieces in three small batches so you don’t crowd the wok.
  11. Fry chicken for 3 minutes of until golden brown.
  12. Remove the chicken from the oil and set on a plate lined with paper towel to drain.
  13. Sprinkle finished chicken with additional salt and serve in paper cones with small bowls of dipping sauce or toss the chicken in the lemon chili sauce and serve over rice.
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