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Friday, April 6, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #42 Harumi Kurihara - Lettuce-Wrapped Fried Chicken

the "Gourmet" prompt...
42. Harumi Kurihara- …who probably hates being incessantly called “the Japanese Martha Stewart.”

This is my introduction to Harumi Kurihara.  And I can see why she is referred to as the Japanese Martha Stewart -- she has a pretty amazing little empire going on.  Yet, she still considers herself a housewife ("shufu").   Born in 1947, she married a TV newscaster in 1973 and had two children.  Often, they had visitors from the television industry in their home and of course Harumi would serve them home cooking.  Harumi was asked to work as an assistant on a cooking show.

Six years after she started working on the cooking show, she published her first cookbook (1989).  In the years that followed, she managed to publish a cookbook a year.  In '92 she published a new style of cookbook, Gociososama ga Kikitakute, in which she featured her family's favorite recipes.  It was based on everyday home cooking and she used her own personal serving dishes, bowls, and utensils in the photographs.  She hit it off big with this one, especially with the housewives and it became a bestseller, as did her follow-up Moichido Godhisosama ga Kikitakute.  More than 10,000 copies of these two books are still reprinted each year with the total printed number of the two books now reaching more than two and a quarter million!  In '96 she began publishing a quarterly recipe magazine entitled Suteki Recipe.  It was the first personal magazine in Japan and it introduced her lifestyle as well as her cooking, gardening, and other creative things (enter the Martha moniker...she even has a book called Everyday Harumi).  Her first English cookbook, Harumi's Japanese Cooking, was published in '05 and was named the best in World Asian Cuisine 2004 and Best Cookbook 2004 in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards (the Oscars of Cookbooks).

But that's not all.  She has hosted various television shows, currently "Your Japanese Kitchen" which started in '07 in which she introduces Japanese home-cooked dishes in English as well as a cooking corner called "Harumi Kitchen" every Thursday on a weekday morning program.
But wait!  It doesn't stop there.  In '95 Kurihara began to operate her business "Yutori no Kukan" which manages shops and restaurants.  The shops sell kitchen items, interior goods, aprons, and clothes; there are 55 shops in major department stores across Japan.  The 13 cafes and restaurants feature her original recipes on the menu.

She still considers herself (and likes being) a housewife.  In this manner, she's always tried to introduce her recipes.  Perhaps using leftover food in the fridge or ingredients that everyone has in their kitchen.  But she adds unique twists to her cooking, giving birth to innovative original recipes.  She takes the same approach (that of a housewife) in designing her products and goods, focusing on function and usability.  She has a very popular apron line with more than 600 designs.  She enjoys life and this is reflected in her wide range of products.

The only book I was actually able to get my hands on locally (library) was Harumi's Japanese Cooking.  But that didn't post a problem.  I had numerous sticky tabs popping out to mark things that I wanted to try.  I wound up going for Japanese-style deep-fried chicken pieces.  And am I ever happy that I did.  The whole family loved it!  The flavor that the marinade imparted on the chicken was fabulous.  Wrapping the crispy, flavorful chicken in lettuce with herbs added a cool element.  And I added some dipping sauces for good measure.  It was a meal that will be repeated in our home.

Leaf-Wrapped Fried Chicken w/ Dipping Sauces

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15 mins. + time to marinate
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: fry entree chicken herbs lettuce avocado Japanese

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ c. potato starch or cornstach
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • oil, for frying
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
to serve:
  • fresh cilantro, mint, and chives
  • lettuce (like Romaine or butter), for wrapping
Creamy Tofu & Avocado Dip
  • 1 avocado
  • ~3 oz. homemade tofu (or use soft/silken store-bought tofu)
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Spicy Sweet Chile Sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Honey
Cut each chicken thigh into ~6 or 7 pieces and place in a gallon-size resealable baggy. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, minced garlic, and a couple pinches of salt to the bag. Seal and squidge it around so that all the chicken is coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to a few hours.

Whisk together flour and potato starch. Dip each piece of chicken into the mixture and shake off the excess.
Heat oil (an 1½-2" deep) until it is around 340° - 350° F. Carefully lower chicken pieces (in batches) into hot oil and fry until crisp, golden, and cooked through; ~4-5 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined tray to drain and repeat until all of the chicken is fried.

Serve the deep-fried chicken with a variety of washed herbs and lettuce leaves. Wrap pieces of chicken in the leaves along with the herbs of your choice. Dip in one or more sauces, using your fingers. Enjoy!

adapted from Harumi's Japanese Cooking

You can choose your favorite dipping sauces to dip these in. I made a sweet and spicy dip and a cool, creamy dip. I think a hot mustard would be fabulous here, as well.

Spicy Sweet Chile Sauce
Combine equal parts Sriracha and honey and stir together. I recommend making a LOT, as this is super addictive.  And tasty.

Creamy Tofu & Avocado Dip
Combine all ingredients and mush together with the back of a spoon and then stir until smooth.
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In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
*source: yotori no kukan

I am sharing this post with:
friday food at mom trends foodiebutton2

Would you like to comment?

  1. This is a dish I would really enjoy Heather. Excellent choice that fits into our healthy lifestyle.

  2. You should try the gyu-don (beef & rice bowl) before you take the book back to the library. It is SO simple and really delicious!

  3. It sounds good! Thanks for the recommendation - I will try it. =)

  4. This looks both delicious and fun Heather!! I love the dipping sauces, but have not yet made tofu! I am assuming that I should use a soft tofu, no?

  5. Love the use of dipping sauces. Sorry to have missed this week. Happy Easter, Heather - to you and your family.

  6. My family would go for this as well, great job on the dipping sauces.  

  7. Oh my, this looks incredible - love the dipping sauce and anything wrapped in lettuce.

  8. These, I could devour! There would be major problems with portion control were I to sit down to a platter of these chicken nuggets with those dipping sauces!

  9. please tell me why all i am seeing today is fried FAVE food....on a day when i am fasting? ugh.  i best get off this devil machine they call the computer until tomorrow :)  this looks delicious, by the way.

  10. The cornstarch/flour mixture sure makes for crispy chicken. Love all the marinades and sauces, Heather. And especially wrapping it all in lettuce. When I see that on the menu anyplace, I order it. This looks crunchy and tasty! You did a super job with Harumi's story too. For all she claims to be a homebody, she sure is a national corporation!

  11. If I haven't commended you on your tributes to these Women Game Changers, shame on me. You've done a terrific job!

    Believe it or not, I've been known to wrap a few goodies in lettuce through the years but, I must admit, never, ever anything so delectable!

    Thank you so much for sharing Heather...

  12. I'm thinking that one of her books would be good for my son who is off to college. Her recipes are so simple and tasty. I like that avocado dipping sauce.

  13. This is a wonderful recipe to highlight  the type of cooking and recipes  she developes. It looks beautiful and it sounds delicious. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  14. Wow - for me this is like being on the Starship Enterprise charting new territories.  What a great intro to what looks complicated and reads pretty easy.  

  15. thanks for the tip...I just ordered her books from the library...I am sucker for all things Asian cuisine...of course Mexican too! Can't wait....these lettuce wraps look divine!

  16. Chicken wraps are awesome - I have never heard of or seen fried chicken wraps though. Genius! I'm sure that kicked it up a notch!

  17. Japanese food really is the perfect mix of flavors and textures and this totally exemplifies that. Fried chicken with fresh lettuce...perfect combo!

  18. A good from from Japan gave me Harumi's Japanese Cooking a while back--it has some really great recipes. I don't remember the tofu-avocado dip though so I need to check that one out. ;-)

  19. fried chicken wrapped in lettuce... I am so there!!

  20. I love this series you are doing on Women Game Changers in Food - I am learning about so many wonderful people. I can't believe I have never heard of Harumi Kurihara, and I'm so grateful to you for introducing me to her! I've clicked over to Amazon and ordered her book already :) I really enjoyed learning about how she has expanded her career as a housewife to include so many other things. Her Lettuce Wrapped Fried Chicken sounds so good, and the one you made looks delicious. I plan to make it while I am waiting for her book to arrive :)

  21. That creamy avocado dip sounds divine and a perfect opportunity to try out your homemade tofu recipe that I just have to try.