A History of Frying in Japan

Written by on May 7th, 2018 // Filed under Blog

When the Japanese Started to Fry Food

Fried food in Japan is common, an easy way to serve vegetables and meats, especially to express the seasons. Fried chicken and tempura is popular during summer and autumn festivals. Kentucky Fried Chicken is everywhere during Christmas. It seems hot and delicious finger-foods are famous in a country that doesn’t rely much on ovens. What influences shaped some of Japan’s most popular fried foods?


Tempura was the earliest form of frying in Japan. It was the Portuguese that brought the oil frying technique to Japanese shores during the 16th century. It was the Lenten season and Portuguese missionaries wanted to abstain from meat, so they fried seafoods, vegetables and other foods. The tempura style is unique in that the batter is light and crispy and only takes a couple of minutes to fry which leaves the food airy and crisp. Tempura fried food can be found in many Japanese restaurants today.


Then came the croquette, introduced to Japan in the 1880s by French embassies. The French brought with them their cream croquette but unfortunately, due to lack of dairy processing machines, the Japanese could not reproduce the French croquette. So the Japanese modified it. They used potatoes so that the croquettes stick together. Today, known as korokke, the Japanese version is found in supermarkets and convenience stores. It’s a Japanese comfort food that can be enjoyed alone or eaten with thinly sliced cabbage. Another variation of the Japanese croquette is the menchi, which contains various ground meats.


Around the 1890s, the French (again) also introduced Japan to cutlets, what the Japanese call katsu. They were not popular then, until fried slices of pork and chicken were served on top of rice as dons. Now cutlets are served with rice, cabbage, and miso soup, or served on top of curry. Unlike other fried foods, cutlets are topped with a variety of sauces – like Worcester sauce and katsu sauce to add extra flavor.
Katsudon is a quick meal to grab and mostly available at convenience stores.


Fried chicken. It’s been popular since the 1920s. It’s called karaage, using a heavy battered frying technique. It was the Chinese who originally introduced it as a way of frying tofu for vegetarian meals; it’s unique – uses soy sauce and rice wine in the cooking. Today, karaage uses the red meat that comes from the legs of the chicken instead of the breast; this leaves it moist and tender compared to the Western breast meat. Karaage is usually eaten alone or with rice and shredded cabbage, popular in every city.

Down From History To Federal Way

Love fried Japanese food like everyone else? Then come to K-Ton in Federal Way located inside H-Mart. Try our tempura and our fried pork and chicken katsu bowls.