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Light and crispy like tempura, but with the added textural intrigue of panko breadcrumbs, kushikatsu is the ultimate Osaka-style street snack, featuring counter seating centered around a shared sauce.

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What Is Kushikatsu?

Kushikatsu, or kushiage, refers to deep-fried skewers of fruit, proteins, or vegetables served with a thin, savory dipping sauce. In Japanese, kushi refers to the bamboo skewers, while katsu refers to a cutlet (as in tonkatsu, fried pork cutlets), and age means fried.

Kushikatsu restaurants typically offer a wide variety of bite-sized ingredients. Choose from seasonal vegetables like shiitake mushrooms, slices of yam, squash, and lotus root (renkon), quail eggs, bits of mochi, and various meats and seafood, like beef, chicken, whole shrimp, and scallops. Once you’ve made your selection, the skewers are dunked in batter, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until golden brown, and enjoyed with a communal dipping sauce.

In Japan, kushikatsu platters are also served with a cabbage slice to use as an additional sauce vessel.

4 Tips for Making Kushikatsu

Making kushikatsu at home is an easy and fun way to bring the energy of an Osaka-style kushikatsu restaurant to your table—especially for a larger group.

  1. Aim for a thin batter. It might be tempting to aim for corndog levels of fluffy, doughy batter, but kushikatsu is all about a harmony between the ingredient and the deep-fried texture. A thinner batter won’t overwhelm even the most delicate of fillings.
  2. Use panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs—fine airy shards made from crustless white bread—absorb less oil as they fry than standard breadcrumbs. This reduced absorption results in a crisper crust without any sogginess.
  3. Get creative with skewers. Tokyo-style kushikatsu skewers alternate diced pork with aromatic alliums, like onion or leek, but if you can skewer it, it’s fair game. Some restaurants even offer fresh fruits.
  4. Make a dipping sauce. Kushikatsu sauce features a savory blend of Worcestershire and soy sauce, with a touch of ketchup or sugar for sweetness. Like tempura dipping sauce, it should be thin enough to coat the skewer without overwhelming the other flavors.

Kushikatsu Recipe

Makes
4-6
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Cook Time
20 min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, plus more as needed
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 lbs assorted vegetables, fresh seafood, and/or meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  1. Thread the assorted filling ingredients onto bamboo skewers and set aside.
  2. Pulse the panko in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of coarse sand, then transfer it to a plate.
  3. To make the sauce, whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar dissolves. Taste, and adjust to preference.
  4. To make the batter, whisk together the flour and egg mixture, adding more water a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but thin enough that it’s still runny.
  5. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. (The oil should be deep enough to submerge the skewers when laid into the pan at an angle.)
  6. When the oil is ready, coat each round of skewers in batter and panko. Fry them until golden brown and crisp, using the lightest ingredients first. Skim off any bits of batter from the oil between rounds, and transfer the finished skewers to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining skewers, and serve with the sauce on the side.

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