Detective Pikachu is out, and I am super behind on all of my posts this past month! As you know I’ve been posting a collection of appetizers, or “starter’s starters” inspired by starter pokémon. I’ve done First Gen Crostini and Cyndaquil Deviled Eggs. Now it’s time to finish out this run by sampling the region of Hoenn with some Torchic Nanban Poppers!
Click here to skip to the recipe for Torchic Nanban Poppers!
So to give you an idea of just how behind I am, I missed out on sharing last month’s Fandom Foodies theme. You might remember a few years ago when I hosted the #PokeNOM recipe link-up? It’s baaaaack!!!
This year I’ve passed my Pokémon Fandom Foodie mantle (and deservedly so) to Sarah of The Cupcakedex for the #PokeNoms link-up. She has an entire Tumblr blog of Pokémon-themed food. Follow and eat them all!
But until that so, who’s up for some Hoenn-region fire-chicken?
The Huggably Delicious Torchic
The Pokédex mentions this fluffy smolder-clucker “stick[ing] with its Trainer, following behind with unsteady steps,” “breath[ing] fire of over 1,800 degrees F, including fireballs that leave the foe scorched black,” and that it “has a place inside its body where it keeps its flame. Give it a hug – it will be glowing with warmth.”
It’s a huggable, awkward, and adorable. I would be some kind of monster to propose cooking these little pyromaniac puffballs, right? If you think that, you’ve obviously never visited my blog before.
A Taste of the Hoenn Region
Like my recipe for Cyndaquil eggs, I wanted my dish to feature cuisine from the region Torchic came from. Hoenn takes its inspiration from the Japanese region of Kyushu. A volcanic area with nutrient-rich soil, warm climate, and natural hot springs, it is an agricultural paradise. Kyushu’s ports, which were open to foreign trade when the rest of the country was not, also developed a food culture that blended Japanese, Western, and Chinese culinary traditions.
With an abundance of fresh ingredients, it’s no wonder that this region boasts more restaurants per capita than Singapore or Hong Kong. Tonkotsu ramen, wagyu beef, mentaiko, and soba noodles? Thank Kyushu and its famous open-air food stalls in Fukuoka.
One dish stood out in particular to me, though, in my research: Chicken Nanban.
Fire in the Belly
So I knew from the start that I wanted to make chicken covered jalapeno poppers for this dish. It made sense to me since Torchic features a literal fire in its belly. Since I went on a regional Japanese food tour with my last post, though, I wanted to make a specifically Hoenn-style dish. That’s where I found out about Chicken Nanban.
Chicken Nanban is fried chicken that’s soaked in a sweet, sour, and sometimes spicy sauce made from soy sauce and rice vinegar. It takes reference from the older Japanese dish Nanbanzuké. And that dish was inspired by the Portuguese Peixe Frito de Escabeche likely brought by 17th-century traders that consisted of egg-battered and fried fish and onions that were “soaked European-style” in sweet vinegar sauce.
Some recipes follow the traditional, flourless egg-batter style, while most modern versions incorporate flour or starch for a more karaage-like texture. I went with the latter since ground chicken holds significantly less structure than solid chicken thighs. For some extra juiciness, I marinated the poppers in soy sauce and sake before frying.
Since some recipes for Nanban sauce feature bird’s eye chilis, I thought it appropriate to use it as well. Bird’s Eye, get it? I know. I deserve that fireball to the face.
Grocery stores often label them as “Thai chili peppers” in the produce section, but you can also use sriracha sauce. Freeze any remaining peppers for use in sauces, curries, or chili.
Want more recipes of those delicious creatures housed in hyper-dimensional bento balls? Check out The Cupcakedex’s #PokeNoms link-up!
Sing For Your Supper!
If you plan to cook the recipe off the site, keep scrolling. However, while access to recipes on the blog will always be free, I now have printable PDF recipe cards and thematic cook-along Spotify playlists as rewards for those who choose to support the blog.
The printable recipe card and playlist for Torchic Nanban Poppers will be available as a $2 donor reward on my Ko-Fi page until Saturday, June 8th, 2019, at 8 pm EST.
You can join my Patreon community at the “Sing for Your Supper” level ($1/month) for access to the playlists or the “It’s All in the Cards” level ($5/month) or higher for access to ALL of my blog recipe cards and playlists. Patrons of all reward tiers will even receive a welcome gift of my Lord of the Rings recipe cards and playlists from January to get you started.
Gotta Eat Them All!
Torchic Nanban Poppers
Equipment: Cutting board, chef’s knife, refrigerator, 9″x13″ baking dish with lid, stovetop, small saucepan, kitchen thermometer, large saucepan or dutch oven, vegetable or canola oil, slotted spoon, paper towels.
- 5 jalapenos
- 1 1/2 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
- 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 bird’s eye (Thai) chilis or 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1 egg, beaten
- all-purpose flour
- Slice off the jalapeno stems and discard, Then slice the jalapenos in half lengthwise, then crosswise so that there are 20 pieces. Scrape out and discard the seeds.
- Blend the cheeses in a separate bowl with a spoon, then scoop 1/2 a teaspoon of cheese onto the rough side of each jalapeno.
- Divide the ground chicken into 20 balls, then carefully form one around each jalapeno piece to fully cover it. Place in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Stir 1/2 cup of soy sauce and the sake in a separate measuring cup, then pour over the chicken to coat. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- While the pieces marinate, make the Nanban sauce by stirring the rice vinegar, sugar, bird’s eye chilis, and remaining soy sauce into a small saucepan and bringing to a boil on the stovetop. Turn the heat off and let cool.
- Pour two inches of vegetable or cooking oil into the large saucepan or dutch oven and heat on the stovetop to 340°F. While the oil heats, discard marinade out of the baking dish and pour a couple of tablespoons of flour into a bowl.
- Using your whole hand, carefully dip the chicken pieces one by one into the beaten egg to coat, then roll in the flour to cover. Repeat with all the poppers and place on a plate.
- When the oil is hot enough, lower the pieces one at a time into the oil with a slotted spoon. Fry the poppers in batches of five until golden brown on all sides, then drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Allow the oil to come back up to temp between batches.
- Dip each piece into the Nanban sauce and coat on all sides before transferring to serving plates.