Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Japanese/ Recipes

Japanese Chicken Nanban with Homemade Tartar Sauce

28/01/2022

Fried chicken in a light egg batter cooked to perfection in a sweet and sour sauce, Japanese Chicken Nanban is a dinner you’ll want on rotation. Topped with homemade tartar sauce for the most delectable combination!

Chicken nanban on a plate with tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage.

Why We Love This

This chicken nanban recipe will leave you with juicy, tender chicken that bursts with flavour. The rich, golden brown colour of the finished dish looks as good as it tastes!

The creamy tartar sauce is so easy to make, and really transforms the dish by combining the creaminess from the mayo and egg with the sweet and sour sauce on the chicken.

Chicken nanban served up and ready to eat with fresh vegetables.

What is Chicken Nanban

Chicken nanban (チキン南蛮) is said to have originated in the Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, southern Japan. It’s an example of yoshoku – a fusion dish where a Western-style recipe has been adapted to suit Japanese tastes. 

It’s similar to tori karaage, but with a few differences in preparation that make it juicy and tender rather than crispy. The chicken pieces are coated in flour and egg, then fried and dunked in a sweet and sour soy sauce / rice wine vinegar / mirin blend to absorb all that delicious flavour. A creamy tartar sauce is then slathered all over the top. 

Where the chicken is traditionally deep fried, we prefer shallow frying to minimise the amount of oil required and to reduce waste.

If you love Japanese fried chicken recipes, try our chicken katsu, popcorn chicken or tori karaage next!

Where We Learned This

We first tried it in a small town called Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture, at a road-side restaurant with our couchsurfing hosts (the same ones who taught us how to make homemade takoyaki!).

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken – Use skinless chicken breasts or thighs for this recipe. Since they’ll absorb the liquid from the sweet and sour sauce, they’ll stay nice and juicy. 
  • Flour – Regular flour is fine for this recipe. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Egg – Lightly whisked. Use a wide flat plate to make it easier to coat the chicken.
  • Vegetable Oil – A neutral flavoured oil with a high smoke point such as canola is best.

For the Sweet & Sour Sauce:

  • Soy Sauce – For the best flavour and quality, use a Japanese soy sauce such as Kikkoman for the perfect balance of flavour and salt. Sub with tamari for a gluten-free version.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – Look for this in the international aisle at your local supermarket, otherwise head to an Asian grocer or buy online. Sub with apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or white vinegar if that’s all you have on hand. 
  • Mirin – A sweet rice wine for cooking. You can sometimes find it in regular supermarkets, otherwise head to your nearest Asian grocer or online. Sub with 1 tsp of sugar if you need.
  • Optional Seasonings – You can add small onion wedges, 1-2 pieces of fresh ginger (or 1 tsp minced ginger) and/or a sprinkling of shichimi chilli powder for extra flavour.

For the Nanban Sauce (Tartar): 

  • Kewpie Mayonnaise – This mayo is on a whole other level on the flavour scale and is, in our opinion, far tastier than it’s Western whole-egg counterpart. You can pick it up at most supermarkets or Asian grocers, make your own Kewpie-style mayo or sub with whole egg mayo.
  • Boiled Egg – Hard boiled egg, chopped into small pieces.
  • Onion – Use the other half of the onion from the sweet & sour sauce, finely diced (for texture) or grated (for flavour without the texture).
  • Tomato Sauce / KetchupKetchup is known as tomato sauce in Australia – they’re the same thing so either works fine.
Ingredients laid out ready to make nanban chicken.

How to make Japanese Nanban Chicken:

  1. Prepare any serving ingredients such as a salad or rice for serving.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and mirin.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together the nanban sauce ingredients (Kewpie mayonnaise, boiled egg, chopped onion, tomato sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper). Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
  4. Coat chicken breasts in flour and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Coat the floured chicken breasts in the egg next, then place into the hot pan and fry for 5-6 minutes on both sides (around 10-12 minutes total).
  2. Once the chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down to medium-low and pour in the sweet and sour sauce mix along with the optional ½ onion piecesginger and shichimi togarashi for extra flavour. Allow the chicken to absorb the sauce for a minute, before flipping and coating the other side.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan, and cut into slices. Place the slices on a plate alongside a salad or on a bowl of rice and top with your nanban sauce (tartar). Add any extra garnishes such as aonori or extra shichimi togarashi and enjoy!

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Chicken – If using thicker pieces of chicken, slice them into thinner pieces and flatten slightly until they’re an even thickness. This will help them cook evenly.
  • Flour – You can use a sifter or strainer to neatly sprinkle the flour evenly over the chicken if you prefer. 
  • Oil – Drain out as much oil as possible between cooking the chicken and adding the sweet & sour sauce. 
  • Avoid Overcrowding – Leave plenty of space between each piece and cook in batches if you need to.

FAQs

What’s the difference between chicken nanban and karaage fried chicken?

Chicken nanban is a variation of karaage. Karaage is a broad term used to refer to a wide variety of fried dishes. Where karaage usually refers to chicken that has been sometimes been marinated in soy sauce, coated in potato starch and then fried, chicken nanban flips this method. It’s coated in flour and egg, fried, and then rested in a pan with the sweet and sour sauce to absorb extra flavour. The tartar sauce over the top of chicken nanban adds extra creamy deliciousness!

What should I serve with chicken nanban?

Chicken nanban is often served with simple sides like finely sliced cabbage or lettuce, fresh cucumber or cherry tomatoes. It pairs perfectly with a side of sushi rice, kinpira stir fry or a crisp Japanese wafu salad. Mix up the flavour with a small bowl of tonkatsu sauce on the side for dipping, and serve Japanese coffee jelly for dessert!

How is Japanese tartar sauce different from Western style tartar sauce?

Traditional tartar sauce recipes often includes ingredients like pickled gherkins and capers that were harder to find in Japan. Japanese style tartar sauce swaps them in favour of finely diced onion for texture and flavour. It’s made with Japanese style mayonnaise for an extra rich and creamy tartar sauce.

How long does nanban sauce / tartar last?

The egg mayonnaise sauce is best eaten fresh, but will last 1-2 days in the fridge. We don’t recommend freezing it.

Variations

  • Frying – Deep fry instead of pan fry for a crispier coating. You might like to use a 50/50 mix of flour and potato starch or cornstarch to make it even crispier.
  • Add Umami – Add a splash of dashi stock to the tartar sauce for extra umami flavour.
  • Garnish Ideas – Sprinkle aonori seaweed flakes and/or shichimi togarashi over the tartar sauce. 
A large slathering of homemade tartar sauce on nanban chicken.

Serve these up alongside Chicken Nanban for the ultimate Japanese feast:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Chicken nanban with a big layer of homemade tartar sauce on top.

Japanese Chicken Nanban with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Fried chicken in a light egg batter cooked to perfection in a sweet and sour sauce, Japanese Chicken Nanban is a dinner you’ll want on rotation. Topped with homemade tartar sauce for the most delectable combination!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 626kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Equipment

Ingredients

For the sweet and sour sauce: Double these figures

Optional:

For the nanban sauce (tartar):

To serve:

Instructions

  • Prepare any serving ingredients such as a salad or sushi rice for serving.
    lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sushi rice
  • In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and mirin.
    2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp mirin
  • In another small bowl, mix together the nanban sauce ingredients (Kewpie mayonnaise, boiled egg, chopped onion, tomato sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper). Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
    4 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise, 1 boiled egg, ½ onion, 1 tsp tomato sauce / ketchup, Salt and pepper
  • Coat chicken breasts in flour and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
    2 chicken breasts, ¼ cup all purpose flour, Salt and pepper
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Coat the floured chicken breasts in the egg next, then place into the hot pan and fry for 5-6 minutes on both sides (around 10-12 minutes total).
    2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 egg
  • Once the chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down to medium-low and pour in the sweet and sour sauce mix along with the optional ½ onion pieces, ginger and shichimi togarashi for extra flavour. Allow the chicken to absorb the sauce for a minute, before flipping and coating the other side.
    shichimi togarashi, ½ onion, 1-2 pieces fresh ginger
  • Remove the chicken from the pan, and cut into slices. Place the slices on a plate alongside a salad or on a bowl of rice and top with your nanban sauce. Add any extra garnishes such as aonori or extra shichimi togarashi and enjoy!
    seaweed flakes / aonori, shichimi togarashi

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Chicken – If using thicker pieces of chicken, slice them into thinner pieces and flatten slightly until they’re an even thickness. This will help them cook evenly.
  • Flour – You can use a sifter or strainer to neatly sprinkle the flour evenly over the chicken if you prefer. 
  • Oil – Drain out as much oil as possible between cooking the chicken and adding the sweet & sour sauce. 
  • Avoid Overcrowding – Leave plenty of space between each piece and cook in batches if you need to.
  • Frying – Deep fry instead of pan fry for a crispier coating. You might like to use a 50/50 mix of flour and potato starch or cornstarch to make it even crispier.
  • Add Umami – Add a splash of dashi stock to the tartar sauce for extra umami flavour.
  • Garnish Ideas – Sprinkle aonori seaweed flakes and/or shichimi togarashi over the tartar sauce. 

    Nutrition

    Nutrition Facts
    Japanese Chicken Nanban with Homemade Tartar Sauce
    Amount per Serving
    Calories
    626
    % Daily Value*
    Fat
     
    32
    g
    49
    %
    Saturated Fat
     
    6
    g
    38
    %
    Trans Fat
     
    1
    g
    Polyunsaturated Fat
     
    14
    g
    Monounsaturated Fat
     
    8
    g
    Cholesterol
     
    331
    mg
    110
    %
    Sodium
     
    1598
    mg
    69
    %
    Potassium
     
    1049
    mg
    30
    %
    Carbohydrates
     
    23
    g
    8
    %
    Fiber
     
    2
    g
    8
    %
    Sugar
     
    6
    g
    7
    %
    Protein
     
    58
    g
    116
    %
    Vitamin A
     
    349
    IU
    7
    %
    Vitamin C
     
    7
    mg
    8
    %
    Calcium
     
    58
    mg
    6
    %
    Iron
     
    3
    mg
    17
    %
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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    Japanese Chicken Nanban with Homemade Tartar Sauce

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