Tori Karaage at Minato Sushi in Halifax
The Minato Sushi restaurant has received some decent reviews, but my one visit to the place didn’t leave an especially favorable impression. Most of the items I selected from their menu ranged from very poor to mediocre, but the star of an otherwise disappointing meal was their Tori Karaage, which was really delicious.
Strictly speaking, this rendition, although tasty, was not especially traditional. In Japanese cuisine, ‘Tori’ means chicken (and chicken was definitely used here), while ‘Karaagae’ refers to a Japanese deep-frying technique in which meats or fish, or even vegetables are marinated, then coated on flour or starch before deep-frying. This is in contrast to ‘Tempura’ style where the food being cooked is not marinated, and is dipped in batter before going into the deep-fry oil.
In the Minato Sushi version, small, boneless morsels of chicken of chicken were used. I was not able to tell if they had been marinated before cooking, however. The meat was very tender and juicy, but there was no specific additional taste suggesting any particular marinade. The coating, though, definitely did seem non-standard. In traditional Karaage fried foods, the coating of flour or starch clinging to the marinade wet surfaces can actually form a visibly thick crusty surface, but here, it was apparent that a batter had been used.
Now, the batter on the Tori Karaage at Minato wasn’t overly thick, but it was very dense. Back when I was a kid, my mother used to make a dish of Sweet and Sour Pork and she used small pieces of cooked pork and then twice deep-fried it in a fairly thin batter. The result there was exactly the result in the Minato deep-frying job. The texture of the coating was initially crisp, then delightfully chewy, making a great contrast with the tender meat inside.
The restaurant provided a dipping sauce on the side whose components I couldn’t identify, but which taste rather like a slightly tangy oyster sauce. It was slightly sweet too, and, with just a little splash of white vinegar, it would have been very much like my mother’s sweet and sour sauce for her pork. Minato Sushi may have departed from the traditional sort of Tori Karaage, but I very much enjoyed this interpretation.