Makrut lime fried chicken with quick pickled cabbage

Looking for a shareable summer recipe that goes down as easy as a pint of black gold? Christy Spring lays out her go-to beer snack – a crisp and crunchy riff on chicken karaage

Serves 3-4

Preparation time 40 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

It’s a universally accepted truth that everything tastes better when you are drunk. While some might flock to an entire stick of frozen garlic bread and others to a doner kebab smothered in garlic mayonnaise and regret, my plan of attack is most often fried chicken. There’s little to go wrong with a piece of chook garbed in a crisp, well-seasoned coating, consumed from a grease-stained paper box curbside. My penchant is hardly revolutionary – there are 8,000 chicken shops in the capital, roughly equating to one for every thousand Londoners. In fact, there are only three UK postcode districts without a chicken shop, all of which are located on remote Scottish islands. Poor souls.

As it’s the foodism drinks issue, it seems fitting to bestow my favourite fried chicken recipe that you too can enjoy with several lagers. It’s loosely inspired by chicken karaage, a boneless Japanese style of fried chicken that uses potato starch as a coating and is so unbelievably moreish you’ll find yourself eating it like a bowl of popcorn. It’s typically served in izakayas – the Japanese take on a pub where people pile in after work for cold beers and bite-sized snacks.

What makes this chicken so delicious is the overnight marinade and double fry, but most of all, the makrut lime salt that coats each piece. I adore the flavour of lime leaves; their fragrance is irreplaceable and can’t be emulated with any other herb. My love affair with these leaves has existed since early childhood, rather unromantically sparked by years reared on ready meals – specifically the Waitrose Thai red curry, which was infused with a healthy dose of makrut might. 

Lime leaves aren’t always sold in supermarkets, so I’ve developed an obsession with stockpiling them whenever I come across them, in a kind of hysterical Covid toilet-roll-hoarding fashion. The fixation became so intense last Christmas that I tucked two packets into my hand luggage in case I needed them on a family holiday to the south of France. Unsurprisingly, among the foie gras, cassoulet, oysters and Toulouse sausage, these leaves did not come in handy.

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 40g piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 chilli, roughly chopped
  • 6 makrut lime leaves
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets (around 450g), cut into bite-sized pieces

For the pickled cabbage:

  • ½ white cabbage
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt

For the makrut lime salt:

  • 8 lime leaves 2 tsp flakey salt (I use Maldon)
  • 2 tsp sugar

For the fried chicken

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 7 tbsp potato starch (plus more, if needed)
  • Fresh coriander leaves, lime wedges and Japanese mayonnaise to serve (I use Kewpie)

Method

  1. Blitz all the marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add to a Tupperware with the chicken pieces and mix well to combine. Pop the lid on the container and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight (minimum 4 hours).
  2. Next, make the pickled cabbage. Shred the cabbage finely on a mandolin or with a knife. Add to a bowl with the lime juice, chilli, sugar and two generous pinches of salt. Mix with your hands to combine and set aside.
  3. To make the makrut lime salt, finely chop the lime leaves on a chopping board with 2 tsp flakey salt and 2 tsp sugar until the three ingredients combine to form a green-flecked salty powder. Add to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Take the chicken out of the fridge and pour the potato starch into a large, flat bowl. Take each piece of chicken out of the marinade and shake off the excess liquid. Roll in the flour until coated, and lay onto a baking tray. Repeat until all of the pieces are covered.
  5. Time to fry the chicken. Heat a saucepan of vegetable oil to 165ºC; if you don’t have a cooking thermometer, insert a wooden chopstick into the oil; you‘ll know it‘s hot enough if small bubbles start to appear around the tip. Once at the temperature, carefully lower the chicken into the saucepan. Fry 3-4 pieces at a time for a couple of minutes until starting to turn golden. Remove from the pan and lay on a tray lined with kitchen roll. Repeat until all the pieces of chicken are fried.
  6. Now for the second fry. Increase the temperature of the oil to 180ºC. Add each piece of chicken to the pan of oil again and fry until golden brown for 3-4 minutes. Once fried, add the hot chicken to a big bowl and sprinkle over the makrut lime salt. Toss evenly to coat.
  7. Add the chicken to a plate, along with a pile of pickled cabbage, lime wedges, coriander, and Japanese mayonnaise. 

Recipe tutorial video 

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