Chicken Chashu

Chicken Chashu

Chashu is the Japanese version of Chinese Char Siu. Unlike its grilled Chinese counterpart, the Japanese version is typically made by rolling pork belly into a log and braising it until tender. It’s then unbound and sliced before being used to garnish bowls of ramen. When served on hot rice, or over a bowl of steaming noodle soup, the fat in the pork melts, making the meat literally fall apart in your mouth. It’s a sublime experience that 20% of the world’s population can’t experience because of their religion.

Recently I was working on creating a recipe for chicken ramen for those that can’t eat pork and decided it needed a chicken version of chashu to finish it off. It started out as a garnish for the ramen, but it was so good I ended up having most of it on rice and in sandwiches. This recipe makes two good size logs, so make it on a weekend and slice it up and enjoy it during the busy workweek.

The first challenge in making chashu from chicken was the shape. Pork belly is relatively flat and rolls up nicely, but how do you get chicken to look round. Sure you could roll and tie it, but as the separate pieces of meat cooked I was pretty sure it would lose it’s shape. To solve this, I wrapped the whole roll in a few layers of foil before tying it with twine. This not only gives it a great cylindrical shape, it holds much of the juice in, helping to keep it moist.

Chicken Chashu Donburi

Since pork belly is loaded with fat, you can cook it until it’s fall apart tender without rendering out all the fat and making it dry. This presented the second challenge. How do you cook leaner chicken until tender while retaining the collagen and fat that make it moist. For this I took inspiration from a terrine, and steamed it instead of braising it. I also used skin on chicken thigh and wrapped it around leaner strips of breast meat (a.k.a. chicken tenders) to create a contrast of textures and colors to mimic pork belly.

The last quandry was that of flavor. Since my chicken was now going to be wrapped tightly in foil and steamed it didn’t leave a lot of opportunity to season the chicken while cooking. That’s why I decided to marinate the chicken in advance. This not only ensures the chicken is evenly seasoned, it reduces the water content of the chicken which concentrates its flavor and firms up the texture of the meat.

Equipment you'll need:

Chicken Chashu
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Japanese style chicken chashu, marinated, rolled and steamed until tender.
Chicken Chashu
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 6
Rating: 3.33
You:
Rate this recipe!
Japanese style chicken chashu, marinated, rolled and steamed until tender.
Servings Prep Time
logs 30minutes
Cook Time
60minutes
Servings Prep Time
logs 30minutes
Cook Time
60minutes
Ingredients
  • 1.14 kilograms chicken thighs – boneless skin-on flattened
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon sugar - granulated
  • 2 teaspoons ginger - fresh grated
  • white pepper
  • 4 small chicken tenders
Units:
Instructions
  1. Put the soy sauce, sake, sugar and ginger in a large Ziploc bag and mix together. Add the chicken thighs and make sure each piece is coated with the marinade. Press as much air out of the bag as possible, then seal and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, tear off a 3 foot long sheet of aluminum foil with the shiny side up. Lay half the marinated chicken thighs on the foil, skin-side down, to form a rectangle about 6 inches wide. Sprinkle the chicken generously with white pepper. Lay two chicken tenders on the chicken thighs. Since tenders taper on one end, you want to lay them facing in opposite directions so you end up with a core of chicken tenders that is roughly the same thickness of both ends.
  3. Tightly roll the chicken being careful not to sandwich the foil between the layers of chicken. When the chicken portion is rolled, continue rolling with the rest of the foil to form a tight cylinder. Twist both ends of the foil shut.
  4. Cut an 8 foot length of twine, fold the twine in half, then tuck the midpoint under one end of the roll. Bring both ends of the twine up either side of the roll, cris-cross the twine, then flip the roll over and bring it back around. Repeat until you've reached the other end of the roll, then tie the twine in a knot. The twine should look like a laced shoe on either side. Make a second roll using the rest of the chicken.
  5. Bring a steamer to a boil, then add the rolled chicken. Cover with a lid and steam for 1 hour. When it's done, remove the chicken from the steamer and allow it to cool. Place the roll in the refrigerator overnight to let the collagen set.
  6. When your chicken chashu is ready, unwrap it, slice it and put it on ramen, or have it on top of rice as a donburi.

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  • http://www.foodstoriesblog.com/ CJ at Food Stories

    Very interesting … Never even heard of this before :-)

  • Mike

    Hello Marc,

    Your recipe is a fantastic solution for those who don’t eat pork, as i am a muslim, so this is a very welcome substitute for those ramen freaks like me who lack this unmissable goody on top of the ramen.

    Untill now i’ve come up with some solutions for the broth, but never for this topping. And frankly dry beef doesn’t do the trick. So this is really a inventive technique that does the trick – in accordance with you websites mottto!

    So thank you verry much! Keep up the good work!

    Mike from the Netherlands
    (excuse me for my poor English writing)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Glad it was helpful! Keep on the lookout for my chicken ramen which is getting posted this Sunday.

      • Mike

        Great, looking forward to it!

  • GQ

    Looks so great. Will definitely try this out on sandwiches and rice and noodles, and maybe even on salad. Thanks so much.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Great idea putting it in a salad!

  • GQ

    Just one question. How long does this keep in the frige? or freezer?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I wouldn’t recommend freezing it, but in the fridge it should keep for up to 5 days.

  • http://twitter.com/chilirv Hervé Moine

    Great Idea , i will definitely try it the next days , thanks for sharing

  • arikskot

    This looks really good: like a chicken galantine without having to start by skinning a bird! Once it is done do you think it would hold together if it were rolled in hot oiled pan to crisp the skin? I sure like crispy skin.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I was trying to figure out what the name of the french dish was that involved rolling chicken! This was definitely inspired by galantine. If you want to crisp the skin, you’ll probably need to use transglutaminase (a.k.a. meat glue) to hold the chicken together as the only thing holding it together after it’s been unwrapped is the gelatin that’s released from the skin. If you look closely at the photo, the outer layer is all gelatin. It would also be a shame to melt away all the gelatin which doubles as a sauce.

  • frazwr01

    Can you recommend a sauce for this recipe? Is the sauce in the photo a sort of soy reduction? Thanks!

  • Vanessa

    does it have to steam for an hour long? will it overcook the chicken?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Since the outer layer is skin-on chicken thigh, it has enough fat and collagen to keep it moist. Because of the connective tissue in thigh meat, it actually needs the time to get tender. The breast meat is in the very center being basted by the juices from the thigh constantly so it comes out perfect.

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  • Kristine

    This might sound like a stupid question, but after steaming it for an hour, can I serve it immediately or refrigerating is a must???

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It’s not necessary, but if you don’t refrigerate it, the gelatin that is released from the chicken skin will still be liquid and so it will run all over your cutting board. The rolled chicken will also fall apart since the gelatin won’t be there to bind it together. Lastly the chicken gets more flavorful (presumably because the cooking juices get redistributed in the meat) if you let it sit overnight.

  • jim

    not reading your instructions carefully enough i used the “wrong” side of the foil while rolling the meat. i wondered if it made a difference and on reynolds site i found the following. Anyway, i’m steaming it right now and will see if there’s a difference. :)

    Which side of Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil should I use, the shiny or the dull side?

    Actually, it makes no difference which side of the aluminum foil you
    use—both sides do the same fine job of cooking, freezing and storing
    food. The difference in appearance between dull and shiny is due to the
    foil manufacturing process. In the final rolling step, two layers of
    foil are passed through the rolling mill at the same time. The side
    coming in contact with the mill’s highly polished steel rollers becomes
    shiny. The other side, not coming in contact with the heavy rollers,
    comes out with a dull or matte finish.

  • jim

    i really wanted to like this recipe, but i think i would rather have the rolled marinated chicken simply fried or grilled. i found the skin flabby, the meat texture rather off and overall it was greezy with the chilled fat solidified on the surface of the roll. perhaps it would have been better if i used a leaner thigh, but is there such a thing? :)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Jim, sorry to hear you did’t like it. I guess the amount of fat won’t be to everyone’s liking, but this is supposed to be a non-pork replacement to pork belly, so the skin and fat content is intentional. If you still have some unsliced roll left, you could try searing the roll in a hot pan. This should render out some of the fat and while I don’t think it will make the skin crisp it should make it less fatty.

  • Ron Evans

    Marc, I gotta say, you may possibly be on to something with this Chicken roll recipe for Ramen. Not to kiss your @$$, but I already think you should be getting Nobel Peace Prize (culinary) for thinking about all the Kosher and Halal people that can’t eat pig. I looked at some of the comments below and there is some hit or miss but this path you are on definitely needs to be pursued. I’m wondering: is the chicken breast even necessary? Although championed by the west for its ‘health’ benefits… everybody else likes legs, wings and thighs because they taste so much better with all their fat and ‘dark-meat’ goodness.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks Ron! To be honest I’m not a huge chicken breast fan, I personally like it in this roll because it adds a texture contrast. It also makes it look more like a piece of pork belly chashu. That said, it’s definitely not necessary.

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  • chef manish prasad hyatt

    this one of best way of new dish in india

  • chef manish prasad hyatt

    can u giv more recipes in my mailing

  • sofia

    I tried this recipe and it was really good. marination made chicken juicy and moist. great on bread. thank you, love your blog, pics and recipes.

  • Ray Williams

    I must say that I am loving your blog. Great recipes, fab piks and quite inspirational.

  • Carnation Rebellion

    can you make a video for this

  • Nay Jade

    can i skip sake to make it?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It’s not going to taste as good, but you can substitute water for the sake.

  • ByThePowerOfRamen

    Umai! Maru-san, omae wa tensai desu yo!

  • Laura

    looks like i’ve gotta convince my mom to invest in a steamer…

  • Divesh

    I love the idea but have a problem with the outer layer. Im wondering whether roasting it could offer a solution to this. Roast foil on, remove and cool for meat to hold together, and then roast without foil. Would that work?
    Or what about steaming foil on and then roasting without, after cooling?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Divesh, In order to answer your question, it would help to understand what your problem is with the outer layer? Do you not want the gelatin? Part of the wonderful part of this dish is the layer of gelatin that forms on the outside of the roll which melts when you slice it and put in on a bowl of ramen. If you don’t want it, you could steam then roast it, but it’s going to make the meat dryer and it will most likely fall apart as it is the gelatin that helps bind the pieces of meat together.

      • Div

        Thank you for the prompt reply. What I would like is crispness outside and gelatin inside holding the stuff together

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Divesh, thanks for clarifying. I don’t think this dish is really well suited for getting a crisp skin. To get crisp skin, you need to have skin that’s really dry and since the chicken is marinated it will be tough to achieve. Also, because of the sugar content in the marinade, it will most likely burn before the skin crisps. If you want crisp skinned chicken, try this recipe: http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/spicy-crispy-chicken/

  • Paolo

    Really nice blog. Recipes are precise, tasty.
    What is the sauce with chashu donburi ?
    TIA.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Paolo, I had some uni (sea urchin) soy sauce in the fridge a poured on top, but it’s not necessary.

  • xExekut3x

    A “Print Recipe” button would be a nice accompaniment to these amazing recipes.

  • Zane

    You said put half the chicken thighs, but what happened to the other half?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Zane, sorry it wasn’t clear, but this recipe makes 2 rolls of chicken. Use half for one rolls and the other half for the second.

    • ogag

      just use your imagination or common sense.. if there is :)

  • TSF

    Great recipe, but it is only gluten free if the soy sauce and sake are gluten free versions. Someone who is gluten free would find that obvious but most people are blissfully unaware of that and may be cooking for a gluten free person.

  • Maria White

    Do you think that the people who want crisp skin can use a culinary torch to make the skin crisp? As long as you use it just above the skin, you should just hit crispy, right? I haven’t tried it since all I have in the house is skinless frozen chunks of chicken. This way it doesn’t dry out the meat, though you would loose some of the gel I’m guessing.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Maria, the skin is too moist to crisp with a torch. it will end up burning before it crisps. Also, an ordinary kitchen torch is going to be way too hot crisp the skin even if it were drier. I’d say the only way you might be able to get the skin crisp is to scrape off all the gelatin, dry it with paper towels and then deep fry the whole thing, but this is probably going to make a huge mess (the oil is going to bubble up a ton, so use a very large pot so it doesn’t boil over), and the chicken is going to be tougher.

  • Andreas Asen

    hey marc thx for the great recipes , 1 question though in my area there is no sake , is there a more general subtitute ?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Andreas, unfortunately, sake has a unique flavor that’s not really substitutable. Water would probably be your best bet.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!