Japanese food as comfort sustenance? You bet, if Chef Takashi Yagihashi is at the helm. His Slurping Turtle brought Japanese comfort food to Chicago’s River North neighborhood earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award in 2013.

Takashi Yagihashi
Slurping Turtle
116 W. Hubbard St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 464-0466
www.slurpingturtle.com

Chef Takashi Yagihashi opened his namesake Chicago restaurant, Takashi, in December 2007 and both Esquire and Chicago magazines named Takashi a “Best New Restaurant” of 2008. Furthermore, Takashi earned a rating of 29 in Zagat, the highest food rating in Chicago, and his smiling face was on the cover of Food and Wine as one of America’s 10 “Best New Chefs.” All of that, and he’s a nice guy. Later in 2014, watch him compete against former “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters” personalities in a new Bravo series “Top Chef Duels.” His marinated Amish chicken with spicy sesame dressing is inspired by the fried chicken his mother often included in his lunchbox.

Duck Fat Fried Chicken

Spicy Napa Cabbage Slaw

  • 4 leaves napa cabbage, stemmed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal (1/3 cup)
  • 2 scallions, stemmed and thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons tobanjan (Chinese chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili oil

Marinade

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated 
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger 
  • 1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup mirin 
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil 
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper 

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken legs and thighs, with bone and skin (about 2.5 lbs) 
  • 6 cups duck fat or enough to fill a pan 3 inches deep (you can also use a deep fryer) 
  • 1 cup potato starch 
  • Pinch of kosher salt 
  • 2 cups leafy greens 
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 pieces

Directions:

  1. To make the cabbage slaw, trim the bottom of the cabbage leaves.
  2. Cut the leaves in half and slice the bottom half into 1/4-inch-wide slices. Then cut the top leafy halves into 2-inch-wide pieces. 
  3. Combine all of the cabbage in a bowl and submerge in cold water to wash. Drain well and place in a bowl.
  4. Add the carrots, scallions, onion and salt and mix well (the salt will remove excess moisture from the vegetables).
  5. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes
  6. Using a sharp knife, separate the thighs from the drumstick by cutting between the joint. Cut the thigh in half lengthwise along the bone. Using a cleaver, chop the piece with the bone in half, resulting in 3 similar-size pieces. Also use the cleaver to cut the drumstick in half. Repeat with the remaining chicken. You should have 20 pieces of chicken when done. Place the chicken in a shallow pan and set aside. 
  7. To prepare the marinade, combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour the marinade over the chicken and coat well using your hands. There should be just enough marinade to coat the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours. 
  8. To finish the slaw, rinse it in cold water three times and strain. Squeeze the slaw between your hands in small batches to remove all the excess water and place in a dry bowl; the cabbage should be wilted. Add the tobanjan, vinegar, soy sauce, nam pla and chili oil. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to use. 
  9. To finish the chicken, line a shallow tray with paper towels and set aside. Heat the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or fill a deep fryer and set the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the potato starch in a large bowl and gently toss each piece of chicken until lightly coated. Carefully place half the chicken in the hot oil, being careful not to splatter. Cook until the chicken is nicely browned and begins to rise to the surface, 9 to 11 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the oil using tongs and place on the paper towel-lined tray. Toss with the kosher salt while still hot. Repeat with the second batch of chicken. 
  10. While the chicken is cooking, prepare 4 appetizer plates by placing 1/2 cup of the leafy greens in one corner. Add 1/3 cup slaw to the center of the plate and set 2 lime wedges next to it. Top with 5 pieces of hot chicken and serve immediately.

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Takashi says, “Ramen is Japan’s ultimate comfort food, the equivalent of a cheeseburger, fried chicken and deep-dish pizza rolled into one. When I moved to Chicago, I found myself craving a good bowl of ramen especially when the temperature dropped during the fall, but it seemed impossible to find. Being a chef, I naturally started to cook them at home and realized how easy it is to prepare a warming and delicious bowl of ramen yourself.”

Shoyu Ramen
Serves 4

  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt 
  • 4 cups pork belly braising liquid 
  • 8 cups ramen chicken stock 
  • 1 1/2 cup shoyu base 
  • 2 cups spinach, packed 
  • 4 (7-ounce) pieces ramen noodles 
  • 4 oz braised pork belly (about 8 slices) 
  • 1/2 cup menma (marinated bamboo shoots) 
  • 8 thin slices naruto (fish cake) 
  • 1 scallion, both white and green parts, thinly sliced on an angle 
  • 1 large sheet nori, cut into quarters, or 4 small sheets

Directions:

  1. Place the eggs and salt in a small pot and add enough cold water to cover the eggs, then set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let sit for 12 minutes.
  2. Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Remove the shells from the eggs and discard. Place the peeled eggs in a small pot and cover with the pork belly braising liquid. Bring the liquid just to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot liquid until ready to use. If possible, let the eggs sit in the braising liquid overnight.
  3. Combine the chicken stock and shoyu base in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. Prepare an ice bath and place a large pot of water over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the spinach to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove the spinach from the water (keep the pot of water) and submerge in the ice bath. Once cool, drain the spinach by squeezing to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  5. Return the water to a boil and add the ramen noodles. Cook, following package instructions, then drain well.
  6. Remove the eggs from the pork belly braising liquid and cut each in half. Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Top each with 2 1/4 cups broth, and then arrange in a circle over the noodles 1/4 each of the spinach, egg, pork belly, menma and naruto, with the scallions in the center. Garnish each bowl with a sheet of nori.
Shoyu Base
Makes 4.5 cups

  • 1 piece kombu, wiped with a damp cloth
  • 1 1/2 cups shirojoyu (white soy sauce)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. 
  2. To make shoyu broth, combine 2 cup chicken stock with 3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) shoyu base.

Related: Best Teppanyaki In The Chicago Area

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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