Toriten 鳥天

japanese cake

This is a dish I did not grow up with. It is essentially tempura using chicken instead of fish. It apparently was started as a local cuisine in Ooita prefecture 大分県 in the southern most island of Kyushu 九州. In the neighboring island of Shikoku 四国 and the Kansai 関西 region (Oosaka 大阪 being at its center), it is often served with udon noodles. I bought bone-in split chicken breast over the weekend. I removed the bones and tenderloins. We ate the tenderloins as an appetizer (grilled with my usual perilla and picked plum) but the breast meat remained marinated in sake (for preserving) in the refrigerator. The next weekend, the chicken was still good and I made this dish.   I think it is usually served with some kind of sauce such as ponzu sauce, tartar sauce or as a topping for udon noodles with broth called “Toriten Udon” 鳥天うどん. Here, I simply served it with wedges of lemon and green tea salt.

Although this is breast meat, it came out quite moist inside. 

Since this is not a dish I am very familiar with, I consulted a few recipes on line. Apparently different parts of the chicken can be used for this dish.  It is essentially tempura with chicken meat but I combined the good parts of several recipes and came up with the following.


Chicken breast, two halves, skin and bone off.

Marinade (sake, chicken broth -from a box Swanson broth – 1 tbs each, 1 tsp of potato starch, 1/2 tsp of grated ginger and a pinch of salt)

Tempura batter (cake flour, one egg and the same amount of cold water – I used reverse osmosis filtered water from the refrigerator,  and 2 tbs Vodka)

Peanut oil for frying.


1. I cut the chicken breasts into bite size slicing across the grain of the meat. I then pounded the slices flat using a meat tenderizer with an irregular surface. I marinated the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag, after massaging the chicken pieces and pressing out as much air as possible. I let it marinate for a few hours (at least 30 minutes) in the refrigerator. This treatment keeps the moisture in the meat and adds flavor.

2. I heated the oil to 350F. 

3. I drained the marinade from the chicken pieces and blotted the surface using sheets of paper towel.

4. To make the tempura batter, I mixed the egg, and Vodka – alcohol prevents gluten from forming. I added cake flour – again, cake flour has least amount of gluten. I could have also added potato starch which has no gluten. I mixed being careful not to over mix. I added flour and/or water to adjust the consistency to resemble runny pancake batter).

5. I dipped the chicken pieces in the batter, shook off the excess and fried until golden and crispy turning once, less than 1 minutes total.

6. I drained the excess oil and served hot.

This was a very nice dish. Despite using breast meat, it came out very moist and succulent. The crust could have been lighter and crisper but the moisture from the meat made the crust soft if not soggy. To be honest, I like kara-age with a coating of potato starch better but this is a new dish and I got one post out of it.

P.S. The next day, I heated up the leftovers in the toaster oven and the crust became nicely crispy, although the meat got a bit drier.

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