If you have an aversion to fried food, stop reading now, because this entry on kushiage (pronounced “kooshi-ahgay”), or “fried things on sticks,” is out to make no apologies. There will be meat, oil, lots of crispiness, and even a salty-sweet sauce thrown in to boot. There will be a “sop” to healthiness in the form of raw cabbage pieces, but in this, salvation you shall not find.
Kushiage (or, in the Osaka/Kyoto region, “kushikatsu”) literally means “stick fry.” All kinds of things can be skewered, but the standards include pieces of pork, squid, lotus root, onion, quail eggs, or, down the rabbit hole you go, even things like cheese and cocktail wieners. The coating is applied as a two-step process. First, the prepared sticks are dipped in a batter made of wheat flour, water, egg, and ground potato. After this, a healthy dusting of breadcrumbs is applied. The enrobed sticks are then fried to a golden crisp and presented to you immediately. For those with, as the Japanese call them, “cat tongues” (sensitivity to hot food), it is important not to dive into the eating whole-hog.
Though you are of course free to eat the kushiage as-is, there is a generous vat of dipping sauce at the ready. This sauce and the rule about using it is, perhaps surprisingly, complicated enough to warrant another post. Ignore this warning at your own peril!
The fried meat and vegetables are of course delicious, but you’re probably going to want something to break up the delicious monotony. This is where the raw cabbage slices come in. Any kushiage restaurant worth it’s weight in salt will provide you with an abundance of freshly washed, super crisp cabbage slices. Between sticks, it’s recommended you eat a few cabbage slices here and there.
Looking to try kushiage in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.