A hugely popular Osaka street food, kushikatsu (kushiage) are skewered meat and veggies that are breaded with panko and deep fried to a golden crisp. Dip in a savory sauce to enjoy!
When we were in Osaka one summer, one of the local specialties that we enjoyed most was kushikatsu (串カツ), also known as kushiage (串揚げ). Similar to hot pot, there is a sense of communal eating with kushikatsu, where you are sitting or standing side-by-side with other diners, partaking in the enjoyment of the good eats, the dunking of the sauce, the lively chatter and the casual yet super fun atmosphere. Today we’ll make this street food from the comfort of our own home!
What is kushikatsu?
Kushikatsu (串カツ), also known as kushiage (串揚げ), are deep fried panko-crusted meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers called kushi. As you may already know, katsu refers to cutlet and age means deep fried. There are kushikatsu specialty restaurants (or stands) with just counter seatings that sell these deep fried skewers all over Japan, especially in Osaka. Having originated in the early 1900s in Osaka, kushikatsu was considered fast food as they were easy to eat, cheap and fulfilling.
There is a wide selection of food, ranging from meat to vegetables and seafood skewered on sticks, all laid out on large trays for you to choose from. You would make the order directly to the chef (or the vendor) by picking out the ingredients you want to eat. The chef would then dip the skewers in the egg and flour batter, lightly coat them in panko breadcrumbs, and deep fry right in front of you.
Once the foods are cooked, they are served straight to you piping hot and before eating you dunk the kushikatsu into a shared sauce pot of thin sauce.
Remember, No Double-Dipping!
Because people who sit next to you are also sharing the same sauce pot, there’s always an etiquette to observe when you eat kushikatsu (kushiage). The most important rule is no double dipping. Some kushikatsu restaurants even have instructions in English and other languages to warn travelers not to dip food into the shared sauce pot after you take a bite off the skewers. As common sense would apply, putting your food after a bite into a communal pot can be unsanitary and is seen as bad manners. What if you want more sauce for the remaining kushikatsu? No worries, the restaurants have that taken care of. You can use a slice of cabbage served complimentary on your counter and scoop up the sauce from the pot and pour it over your kushikatsu on your plate.
Various Ingredients for Kushikatsu
Kushikatsu can be made with all kinds of meat, seafood and seasonal vegetables. Variety is key, so the list is a long one.
Atlantic horse mackerel (Aji)
Japanese smelt-whitings (Kisu)
Blackwater smelt (Wakasagi)
Prawn and shrimp
Fish cakes – Chikuwa, Kamaboko, Hanpen
Dairy – Cheese
Asparagus wrapped with bacon
Chikuwa filled with cheese
Mochi (rice cakes)
3 Tips to Make Perfect Kushikatsu
Here are a few tips I have for you when you make kushikatsu at home.
1. Coat the batter lightly
To enjoy the maximum flavor of the ingredients, you don’t want thick batter around them, but just enough coating of batter so the panko will adhere and do the job.
2. Use Japanese panko
Instead of regular breadcrumbs, you want to use Japanese panko for the best, light, airy and crispy texture. Unlike tonkatsu or chicken katsu, kushikatsu always uses very fine panko, so we need to use a food processor or put the panko in a bag to rub or use a roller pin to break the panko into smaller pieces.
3. Deep fry veggies first before the meat
When the oil is hot and ready for deep frying, you want to start with the vegetables or more plain foods first, leaving the meat or strong flavored ingredients for later. That way, the oil stays clean for the plain food without infiltrating the flavors. As you get to the savory food, the oil tends to get darker and more flavorful toward the end.
How to Enjoy Kushikatsu at Home
Kushikatsu (kushiage) is usually enjoyed with a thin savory sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce. You can mix Worcestershire with other ingredients like what I did here to create your own because Worcestershire sauce alone can be a bit too strong. Mr. JOC feels that he needs a bit of spice, so he sprinkles shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) on his skewers to give them an extra boost.
Kushikatsu (kushiage) is also featured in a popular Japanese drama, “Kodoku no Gurume” (Season 6, Episode 1).
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (enough for 10-inch cast iron skillet)
(makes 1/2 cup)
4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I use a Japanese bulldog brand. If you use other brands, you may add more sugar, as the Japanese one is less tangy)
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
9 quail eggs
6 asparagus spears
1 bunch garlic chives
(Chinese chives or nira) (about 20 stalks)
1/2 cup sushi ginger (gari)
1 piece boneless pork loin chops (1/2-inch thick)
1/2 chicken breast (we only use one side of the butterflied chicken breast)
4 slices sliced pork belly
1 large egg (50 g w/o shell)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4-1 cup water
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/kushikatsu-kushiage/.