I don’t know what your mom packed for your picnics, but my mom had a typical set menu which usually consisted of Southern-style fried chicken and a bunch of side dishes. Except there was one huge difference, the side dishes were all Japanese like a funky glowing neon yellow pickled radish or a rice ball…. a ball of rice + chicken, WTH.
While you were out enjoying your sides of corn on the cob or mashed potatoes and gravy, I unenthusiastically had sides of cold vinegary sunomono salad (sliced cucumbers). If that wasn’t bad enough, the rest of my fixings weren’t anything like what you were probably eating either. Instead of cornbread or a roll, I was holding an onigiri (rice ball) with furikake (rice seasoning) or a umeboshi onigiri (salty plum rice ball) which we disliked as kids. So not only did I not have something you couldn’t slather in butter, but I was getting one of my parents to pick out of the gross red stain that the umeboshi had left behind at the heart of the rice ball that I disliked so much.
“As a kid, gravy and mashed potatoes just seemed like the proper sides. Unfortunately, the other side dishes I had available were either takuan which are yellow half-moon shaped pickled radishes, or the OG mega sushi roll, futomaki.”
As a kid, gravy and mashed potatoes just seemed like the proper sides. Unfortunately, the other sides I had available were either takuan which are yellow half-moon shaped pickled radishes, or the OG mega sushi roll, futomaki. They all took the joy out of eating fried chicken for a BMX riding, Atari playing, Vans-wearing pimply faced teen who really didn’t need greasy chicken, but the corn, mashed potatoes, rolls, etc. you’d see in KFC commercial were securely implanted in my head. Any kind of attempt at asking for the proper Colonel Sanders approved sides resulted in the “well, go live with your friend, and go eat their food” (sounds tempting when they have mashed potatoes).
Oh, and the picnic spread didn’t come in a bucket or a picnic basket; we had a fleet of Tupperware that has been in our family for decades which was later wrapped up nice and tight in a furoshiki (cloth wrap) to make it an easy carry.
On one end, you’ve got your Japanese food and then on the other end you have your Southern dishes. They’re both happy by themselves, but then there’s always got to be that person who decides to mash the two together. When it happens, it’s called fusion, but for the bad attempts, I refer to it as “confusion” which is more than often the case. In the case of Tokyo Fried chicken aka TFC, it’s not the case.
I should also point out that this isn’t JFC (Japanese fried chicken) which is what some refer to karaage as.
First appetizer, I wasn’t feeling the crispy fried chicken skin here which is why I still have the leftovers sitting in my fridge (I’ll have to, unfortunately, throw it out soon).
Next up, the mac’n’cheese. It was done right. Nice and cheesy with an even bake in the gratin dish topped off with a nicely plated row of nori. That might seem like a trivial detail, but a lot of slacker kitchens will struggle to execute and plate their dishes like Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. (I know because my green onions on the baked dynamite dish I prepared each night when I worked BOH should have been framed in a pic next to my bed).
What you don’t know is that I love Southern and soul food. How much do I love it? Well, I cook it every year for Thanksgiving (over the last decade), the full spread. From fried okra (I need to work on the breading), mac’n’cheese (needs a lot of work), collard greens (I’m content with it), mashed potatoes and gravy (oh, we good), the turkey (yea I slack on it), and the stuffing (it’s my mom’s recipe which is damn good).
Since I cook, I know the amount of effort that went into Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. because I’ve tried different batters: flours, starches, spices, marinades (buttermilk), oils: lard, vegetable, to peanut oils. If you think it’s easy, go eat Roscoe’s, and you’ll know not everybody can do good fried chicken.
I was about to ask for hot sauce because I wasn’t about to put a “ponzu” (citrus soy sauce) on my chicken although after seeing the word “spicy,” I thought “why not try it.” Well, I’m glad I did because I was expecting a hack job in execution, but what I got was far from it. Their hot sauce with their fried chicken takes this chicken to another level.
Back in the days when food was segregated with Japanese food sticking to itself, and Southern food, well in the South were like old times. Now, in these new times, I am boldly embracing Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. and their desegregation plans, and I now welcome these hapa flavors brah.
I don’t even mind having my fried chicken with an umeboshi onigiri (hey, when you get older your tastes change).