Christmas is approaching and here in Japan there is always a little bit of concern around what to eat on the big day.  I don’t really feel inclined to roast a whole turkey and invite 10 people over (seating is always an issue), I don’t want to spend $80 on badly catered turkey from one of the American restaurants here, I’m not a member of the Tokyo American Club so I can’t get their $200 whole turkey and sides thing, and I’m certainly not going to go full native and order KFC.  This is my only alternative.

This dish is more of a Japanese interpretation of a Christmas turkey.  I’ve used two of my favourite ingredients – shiso, a minty peppery Japanese herb, and ito-tougarashi a long, dried Korean chili that looks amazing.

Japanese Christmas Turkey

  • Turkey or chicken Breast
  • Aojiso (Green Perilla/Shiso)
  • Ito-tougarashi (Korean Shredded Red Chili)
  • Egg white
  • Cornflour
  • Nihonshu (Japanese Sake)
  • Tentsuyu (Tempura Dipping Sauce)
  • Cranberry Pulp or Juice
  1. Remove the skin and fat from the tenderloin or breast. I’ve used chicken in this case but if I end up making this around Christmas I will buy some turkey breast.  From the centre of the breast cut down halfway on the long axis and then across to the right and to the left inside the meat. Fold out the flaps and that should leave you with a flattened breast. Diagonally cut the meat into long, thin strips and transfer them to a bowl. Add salt and nihonshu and leave to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Take about 10 aojiso leaves per breast and cut them through along the long axis. Lay the halves on top of each other and roll them up. Now very finely julienne the leaves so you are left with fine threads of the shiso. Put them in a bowl and mix in a roughly equal amount of the ito-tougarashi.
  3. In yet another bowl, add in an egg white (1-2 per breast also) and beat until slightly frothy.
  4. Heat some frying oil in a wok or deep fryer to around 150-160C (at that temperature, small bubbles (but no big ones) should rise from the ends of a pair of wooden chopsticks as soon as you dip them in). You don’t want the oil too hot because you are not trying to brown the meat.
  5. Pour off any excess nihonshu from the chicken and add in a couple of tablespoons of cornflour. Mix thoroughly (using a pair of chopsticks is easiest from here on in) and then transfer first to the egg white and then to the shredded shiso and tougarashi. Mix well and then start adding the chicken to the oil. You’ll want work quickly and to do this one piece at a time, or else you will be left with either a stuck together mass of chicken or burnt parts.
  6. The chicken should only take 45 seconds or so. The chicken should still be mostly white and the shiso and tougarashi crispy but not discoloured. The fast cooking time and egg white make for a very soft and tender chicken (unlike many fried chicken dishes), which contrasts brilliantly with the crisp coating. Drain on some paper and make the dipping sauce.
  7. The dipping sauce couldn’t be easier. Assuming you’re using a good-quality prepared tentsuyu (although it is incredibly easy to make from scratch also, maybe I’ll put some kind of post up about that later) you just put that in a bowl and add in your cranberry juice to taste. I use an organic cranberry pulp but any cranberry juice will do.