Tokyo Hot Chicken Sandwich (3 ways!)

This recipe is a simple fun mash up of a southern American staple with some great Japanese influences. While it may seem like there are many steps to this, all of the ingredients are accessible and each component is fairly easy to make, so don’t let the amount of steps intimidate you! 

The Japanese aspect of this recipe comes in from the Togarashi spice mix, which is a blend made up of 7 spices which typically include Szechuan peppercorn, orange peel, ground chili, sesame seeds, nori (seaweed) and other spices. You can find it on Amazon or an Asian market. Some other Japanese influences of this dish also includes rice vinegar, a quick pickled sesame cucumber and a yuzu (similar to a citrus flavor) togarashi mayo all on a Hokkaido style milk bread bun. The southern American aspect  is the “hot” Nashville style of the sandwich. In the south, “hot Nashville chicken” is a fried chicken sandwich where the chicken is dipped in a spicy hot oil after it’s fried. 

This is a multipart recipe, because, it’s a sandwich! If you just want to make a certain part please just click on the name of the recipe to go directly to that piece. If you would like the recipe in its entirety, scroll down! (We hate when people make you scroll to the bottom just for one piece of the recipe!) 

*IMPORTANT NOTE* If you’re looking to make this recipe in its entirety, it’s best to actually start the day before you want the meal. First step would be to get your chicken marinating, then make your buns. Next would be making the pickles, Togarashi oil and Mayo. Last step would be to cook the chicken so that once that is finished, all you have to do is assemble!  

Click on recipe part below to jump directly to each part of recipe:

Fried Chicken (all styles)
Hokkaido Style Milk Bread Bun
Quick Pickled Sesame Cucumber and Fried Shishito Peppers
Yuzu Togarashi Mayo

First things first, get your chicken marinating! Then we can move onto the milk buns. 

Fried Chicken

Before you do anything for this recipe, get your chicken marinating! This will make a huge difference! We say this first because it needs to marinate for 6-24 hours. The start of these recipe’s are our basic go to for any type of fried chicken. Tangy buttermilk not only adds a nice zing, but the acid helps to tenderize the chicken. Add whatever seasoning you want to customize it to your taste, but here is the one we used for our Tokyo Hot Chicken Sandwich. 

3 pounds (roughly 4 large) Boneless Skinless chicken thighs (or breast, whichever you prefer!) trimmed of excess fat and to uniform sizes. 

(Make sure to keep any chicken meat bits that may fall off or that you have trimmed to make a uniform piece, we’ll use these to fry up later for a snack!)

For the marinade:
1.5 cups of buttermilk
1 Tb fresh or frozen dill (2 tsp dried)
1 Tb of granulated garlic
1 Tb granulated onion
2 tsp sea salt/kosher salt
2 Tb Shishimi Togarashi (if you do not have access to an Asian market or can’t find this, you can use McCormick Japanese 7 Spice blend)
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Mix the buttermilk, seasonings and oil  together in a large non reactive bowl (meaning, not copper or aluminum), toss in the chicken and coat well. Let the chicken marinate in this mixture for at least 6 hours, up to 24. We like to put ours in a zip seal bag, squish out the excess air and keep in the cleaned out bowl. 

Just before you get your chicken ready for cooking, its time to put together the heart of this sandwich – the spicy togarashi oil. The best oil to use for this is a subtle one as you don’t want to detract from the main flavor. We use Canola for this. Simply mix together 1 cup of oil (remember this is for 4 sandwiches!) with 4 Tb Togarashi and 2 Tb of honey. This is where you can customize it! If you want it even spicier, add 1 Tb of cayenne pepper, or some additional Togarashi. That’s it! 

Now- chicken time! First, pick your coating; 

Southern Fried– The OG Fav for super crispy, crunchy flavorful Chicken.

Panko Breaded– Japanese Style breadcrumbs that are chunkier than Italian style and will give more of a crisp, light crunch.

Freshly Fried

Karaage– Classic Japanese style way to fry up, typically using potato starch, but we have luck with corn starch instead.

Freshly Fried

Frying method- we of course have a deep fryer – a small household one will run about $40, and is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing, because it’s so easy to fry so many things! If you do not want that temptation, a frying pan with a clip on thermometer works great too. The temperature will depend on coating you choose, so keep reading! 

Make sure to use a good neutral oil like vegetable, canola, peanut or our favorite..sunflower! Steer clear of oils like olive, avocado, or nut oils as they’re not only more expensive but they have a low smoke point and can give an off flavor.

If you want to be healthier, you can oven fry, just spray with pan coating and cook in your oven or air fryer. Do so at your own risk though! We can’t promise that this will result in the extra crispy goodness that makes this sandwich everything it needs to be. 

Next up, it’s time to get your chicken out of the fridge, prepare for frying and cook them up! 

Southern Fried- Preheat your fryer to 350 degrees. While it’s preheating mix together: 
3 cups of All Purpose flour
1 Tb granulated garlic
3 TB Togarashi seasoning (or 7 spice blend)
2 tsp sea salt
Optional: 1 Tb cayenne pepper if you want really spicy! 

Drain the chicken from the bag into a colander over a bowl, you want to save that buttermilk! Let the chicken drain, then coat each piece (both sides!) with the flour mixture, place on sheet pan with a dusting of flour and continue with the remaining pieces. (Don’t forget the little nugs that you reserved, cook those up for a snack!) The chicken should have a shaggy look to it now and that’s when when it’s time for a second coating! Place your floured chicken back into the buttermilk for quick re-dunk into the buttermilk, back into the flour again and then back onto the lightly floured plate or pan. Let it hang out for 5-10 minutes to shag out again.

If using a deep fryer, it’s best to fry 2 pieces at a time. It should take about 5-7 minutes to cook through depending on how thick the meat is. It’s always good to use an instant read digital thermometer and cook the chicken to 165 degrees. Once it has reached 165, remove to a sheet pan and place into an oven or toaster oven sitting around 180-200 degrees to keep warm. 

Panko- Preheat your fryer to 350 degrees. 

Set up a breading station with the following in this order:

  • Drained chicken
  • flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs beaten with 1TB of water
  • Panko crumbs seasoned with 2 TB of togarashi.

Drain your chicken well, and coat each side with flour making sure to shake off any excess. Next, dip into the egg mixture, making sure the entire piece of chicken gets coated and then remove and coat with the Panko mixture. We like to give the chicken a good hard press into the crumbs, turn it over, press again and remove. You can keep your coated pieces on plate or tray until fry time. (Tip- this is the perfect stage to freeze this panko breaded chicken at, if you want to make extra and have them ready for whenever you are. Just make sure to separate the chicken with parchment paper between layers of freezing.) Now it’s time to cook!

If using a deep fryer, it’s best to fry 2 pieces at a time. It should take about 5-7 minutes to cook through depending on how thick the meat is. It’s always good to use an instant read digital thermometer and cook the chicken to 165 degrees. Once it has reached 165, remove to a sheet pan and place into an oven or toaster oven sitting around 180-200 degrees to keep warm. 

Karaage– This is the quickest method and results in a super crispy chicken! 

First, Set your fryer to 325 degrees, we’ll turn it up to 375 later. 

On a large, wide plate, simply season about 2 cups of potato/corn starch with about 1 Tb of sea salt, and a few pinches of black pepper. Drain the chicken well and coat each side of the chicken with the potato/corn starch making sure to shake off any excess. 

Next it’s cooking time! This method involves 2 fry’s. The first dry sets the coating and starts the cooking process and is essential for a super crispy chicken. First, place 1-2 pieces of chicken into your 325 degree oil and cook for about 3 minutes, or just until the coating sets. Remove and set in a wire rack or tray lined with paper towels. Repeat with all your chicken pieces. 

Next, turn the heat up on the fryer to 365-375. The final step will add that extra crispy, crunchy layer, give you a nice golden brown crust and help to seal in all the juices. Drop each chicken in the 375 degree oil for about 3 minutes, but keep a close eye on it, the sugars from the buttermilk can burn quickly making the taste very off putting.

It’s always good to use an instant read digital thermometer and cook the chicken to 165 degrees. Once it has reached 165, remove to a sheet pan and place into an oven or toaster oven sitting around 180-200 degrees to keep warm. 

After you have cooked your chicken style of preference and just before you assemble your sandwich, brush each piece of chicken in the Togarashi oil. The more oil, the spicier, so apply at your own risk! 

Brushed with Togarashi Oil

Tangzhong (Hokkaido Style) Milk Buns 

This may seem like an unnecessary step, making your own rolls for a chicken sandwich? Why? If you have a great Asian bakery around, save the step and buy some milk buns, but if not, these are absolutely delicious and are fun to make, so why not?!

Servings: 6-8 buns

Ingredients:
Tangzhong:
20 g (2tbsp) strong white bread flour
100 ml water/milk 

Dough:
350 g (about 3 cups) high gluten flour
7 g (2 tsp) fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
50 g (1/4 cup) cane sugar
1 tbsp milk powder (optional)
125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
1 large egg
50 g (1/4 cup) room temp softened butter

Glaze:
1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk
sesame seeds (Black and White are fun) or togarashi

Instructions

Tangzhong- this step is super important, so don’t skip it! This Japanese technique will result in an easier knead, a higher rise and a more moist texture. 

Place the flour in a small saucepan or skillet and gradually whisk in the water/flour. Place over a medium heat and cook, whisking constantly until it has thickened to a wallpaper paste-like consistency, this happens quick, about 1-3 minutes. Remove from the stove, scrape onto a plate and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface, set aside to cool, we threw ours in the freezer.

Main Dough-

Place the second measure of flour, yeast, salt, sugar and milk powder(if using) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, lightly stir together and make a well in the centre. Add the egg, milk and cooled tangzhong to the well and mix on a low speed until it comes together into a dough, this should take about 2 minutes.

Add the softened butter and mix on a high speed until the dough is very stretchy and comes away from the sides of the bowl. This can take a while, even in a stand mixer, but it can also be done by hand. This is the key step in making the springy buns, it forms the gluten, so knead it until it becomes a nice smooth elastic mass, about 10-15 minutes by mixer, maybe 20 by hand.

Transfer the dough to a bowl, with a light coating of butter, cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours but 77-83 degrees will be the perfect temperature. You can also slow proof in the fridge overnight, if you do this, take the dough out about an hour before to come to room temp.

Line a sheetpan with parchment paper. Divide the risen dough into 8 equal pieces(use a scale if you have it) and shape each piece into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Spread the dough out, well spaced on the sheetpan and loosely cover with plastic wrap that you spray with pan spray. Let rise for about 1 hour until they puff up. 

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the risen buns with the beaten egg/milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds or togarashi. Bake for about 20 minutes until deep golden brown, the internal temperature should reach 190-200 degrees F.

Transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool before serving, store any leftovers in an airtight container or zipper bag.

The finished product – can’t wait to dig in!

Quick Pickle Sesame Cucumbers and Fried Shishito Peppers

Slightly crunchy, sour and sweet, a vital part to any good sandwich! This recipe is quick so don’t blink and miss a step. 

We are fans of using English or long cucumbers for this recipe, or many others in fact, less seeds, more tender skin and rounder flavor.

Ingredients:
1/2 English Cucumber, thinly sliced about 1/8” 
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tb sugar or honey
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp chili flakes

Gently heat the vinegar and dissolve the sugar or honey in it, then remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients and give a stir and add in the sliced cucumbers. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to overnight. We notice that the pickles start to degrade after 2 days (if they even last that long before they’re devoured!), so eat them quick!

Blistered (Fried) Shishito Peppers

Ingredients:
Handful of Shishito, or their very very close cousin Padron will work too.
1 Tb of chunky sea or pink salt
2 Tb neutral oil or deep fryer

If using a deep fryer, just dunk the peppers right in 375 degree oil, but watch out, they might spit at you as the liquid in the pepper meets the hot oil and that is no fun! 

If you’d rather roast, toss the peppers in about 2 Tb oil and roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

When the peppers are nicely blistered, toss in a bowl while sprinkling your coarse chunky salt on them. That’s it, that’s all! It’s that easy. 

Yuzu Togarashi Mayo

Such a simple yet flavorful spread for this delicious sandwich! You can also use it as a dipping sauce for when you make those delicious chicken bites! 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayo 
Zest of 1 Yuzu (if you can’t find yuzu, lemon zest will work!)
1 tablespoon Togarashi Seasoning
Stir together and place some on each side of your bun. 

And that it! We hope you full enjoyed the process of making these delicious sandwiches and eating them too! Make sure to reach out if you have any questions along the way! 

Buttermilk in Front, Panko in Back
Karaage style with a side of cold soba noodle salad

3 Comments Add yours

  1. JEANNE COUCHEY says:

    This looks so good, could you come up & make it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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