Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Sake-fried spatchcock with ginger sesame rice

Karen Martini is a chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper. @karen_martini

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

I saw these little spatchcocks at the supermarket and decided to do something with them. They were tiny but very tender and sweet.

What I like about this is that it’s like fried chicken, but it’s not greasy. The spatchcock is more elegant and less fatty. It’s the far end of the fried chicken scale. It doesn’t belong in a bucket and there’s no need for a pile of napkins.

The batter is nothing more than a veil. The potato starch adds a nice dimension to the dish. The sake has a beautiful textural impact on the spatchcock that is really sublime. The same dish would work well with quail or even a little whiting if you have no issue with bones.

I like to think the rice bran oil is healthier to fry in, but that’s not necessarily true. Still, it’s nice to think it. It’s my choice of oil for deep-frying at home at the moment.

People are scared of cooking fried chicken at home, partly because the idea of a pot of hot oil is intimidating. But this is really easy to do and really worthwhile.

What you need is 10 centimetres of oil in a medium pot. Don’t use anything too big. Cook in batches so you don’t bring down the temperature of the oil. I strain the oil and reuse it later, either for potatoes or for frying other poultry.

You could serve this dish with a crisp beer or a cold sake. A serve of Japanese-style pickles would also be nice.


Time: 90 minutes preparation + 20 minutes cooking

Serves 2-4

  • 500ml frying oil (I use rice bran oil)
  • 1 large piece ginger, 15cm long, peeled and sliced on a mandolin to 3mm thick and then julienned into matchsticks
  • granulated salt
  • 4 small spatchcocks (about 300-350g each), halved and backbone removed, skin trimmed and wing tips removed
  • 2½ tsp salt flakes
  • 2 tsp white peppercorns, ground
  • 200ml cooking sake
  • 100g potato starch
  • 100g cornflour
  • 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, cooled and ground
  1. Heat four centimetres of oil in a frypan over medium heat. Once warm, add the ginger and fry until lightly golden. This will take a minute or two. Remove from the oil and drain onto paper towel. Season with salt. The ginger will crisp up as it cools.
  2. Lay out the spatchcock halves and season with the salt flakes and pepper. Shift to a small tray and add the sake. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight and then lift from the liquid and drain and pat dry with paper towel. Add to a tray with the potato starch and cornflour, coating lightly.
  3. Shake off the excess flour before frying two at a time in preheated oil in a deep frypan over a medium high heat (about 175ºC). Do not crowd the pot.
  4. Cook for four to five minutes, skin-side down. Flip gently and cook for a further minute and then drain on a rack and season with salt. Allow to sit for one minute before serving. (Note that these are very small birds. Cooking time will increase for a bigger spatchcock.)
  5. Serve with the dipping sauce and sushi rice (recipes below). Form the rice into a dome, topped with ground toasted sesame seeds and crispy fried ginger.

Dipping sauce

  • 2 tbsp yuzu juice
  • 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pinches ground white pepper
  1. Stir all ingredients in a bowl and serve alongside the chicken.

Sushi rice

  • 400g sushi rice
  • 500ml water
  • 50ml sake
  • 1 piece kombu, 10cm x 10cm, rinsed

Sushi vinegar mix

  • 40ml mirin
  • 50ml rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt flakes
  1. Mix the mirin, rice vinegar, sugar and salt and set aside.
  2. Rinse the rice in cold water, strain and add to a heavy-based pot. Add the water and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the sake and kombu and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and kombu and stir in the vinegar mix.
  5. Spoon the rice into a large bowl and cut the rice and fluff and fan all at the same time. Then cover with a damp tea towel and lid.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 3, 2024 as "Light and magic".

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