Ootoya’s Sweet and Sour Chicken (Tori Kurozu-An) 大戸屋鶏と野菜の黒酢あん

Ootoya’s Sweet and Sour Chicken (Tori Kurozu-An) . photo by
Namiko Chen

A copycat recipe of Tori Kurozu-An from Ootoya, this Japanese-style sweet and sour chicken uses black rice vinegar in the sauce to create a deep, malty savory flavor.
Sweet and sour dishes from Chinese restaurants are really popular and my children love them whether they are made with chicken or pork. This sweet and sour chicken, however, is a bit different from the typical one you’ve tried. Why?

Japanese Sweet and Sour Chicken
First of all, this sweet and sour chicken is Japanese-style. Did you notice there are several kinds of vegetables in the sweet and sour chicken? This is a copycat recipe from a popular Japanese diner — Ootoya (大戸屋), which specializes in Japanese home-cooking dishes (katei ryori 家庭料理). Some of you may be familiar with this restaurant, as there are many Ootoya restaurants both in Japan and outside of Japan, including in Singapore, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and two locations in NYC.

In Japan, we refer to the sweet and sour sauce as amazu-an (甘酢あん), literally meaning sweet vinegar gravy. On Ootoya’s menu, this recipe is called Tori Kurozu-An (鶏と野菜の黒酢あん), using black rice vinegar (黒酢, kurozu) in the sweet and sour sauce. Black rice vinegar is an aged vinegar made from rice and it is less sour and has a deeper flavor compared to regular rice vinegar. Also, their version of sweet and sour sauce omits ketchup, so you don’t see the typical red color in the sauce.

This sweet and sour chicken has been my favorite from Ootoya’s menu since I tried this dish for the first time years and years ago. When I was in Japan several summers ago, I shared a picture (https://www.instagram.com/p/qWRYLYMkIb/) of this dish while dining there on Instagram. @alisasakura from Australia left a comment on my picture saying that Ootoya actually sells a pre-made package of this special Kurozu-An sauce. So the next time I passed by the restaurant, I bought two packages to try at home (thank you again, @alisasakura!).

Packaged vs. Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken
After coming back to the U.S., I made this dish at home with the packaged sauce and tried to recreate this flavor. While testing my own recipe, I found out Ootoya actually shares the recipe for this dish online (https://cookpad.com/recipe/2600049)! So I made three batches for the taste test:

The recipe made with Ootoya’s package sauce
Follow Ootoya’s recipe to make the sauce
My version of Ootoya’s sauce

Our family had a serious tasting session for this recipe and one sauce won everyone’s votes for the best flavor. It was actually mine! My version was not that different from the original sauce, but in my humble opinion, I think mine has a better balance than the packaged one or the Ootoya’s recipe. However, I still think the restaurant serves the best Tori Kurozu-An, but for home cooking, my family agrees that my recipe below was the best. I wrote down the exact measurements I used so please try to be accurate for the best result.

Before sharing the video and recipe, I want to quickly mention a Japanese cooking technique called suage (素揚げ, Su-Ah-geh). It means deep-frying without a coating of flour or batter. This technique is used mostly for vegetables (but sometimes meat, too). By deep-frying vegetables for a short period of time, you can keep the crispness of the vegetable. Stir-frying vegetables takes longer and sometimes the vegetables are cooked unevenly or tend to be wilted and soft. The suage technique helps the ingredient keep its original flavor, color and shape.

Sweet and Sour Chicken (Ootoya Tori Kurozu-An)

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 2

2 chicken thighs (11 oz, 312 g)
3 potatoes
3 inch lotus root (renkon)
1/2 carrot
1 Japanese or Chinese
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper
1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
3 cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) for deep frying

2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sake
1 tsp ginger (grated, include juice)
1 clove garlic

Black Vinegar Sauce
4 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black vinegar (If you use Chinese black vinegar, use 1/2 Tbsp as it has a stronger flavor)
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp sake
2 tsp potato starch or cornstarch

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking/.

For the full recipe, visit: https://www.justonecookbook.com/ootoya-sweet-and-sour-chicken-tori-kurozu-an/.

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