There's a popular program on Nippon Television in Japan called Ito-ke no shokutaku  (The Ito Family's Dining Table). It's a how-to / household hints type of show, which tests out viewer-submitted tips and tricks, which they call urawaza.
So...why am I talking about a Japanese TV show that you can't watch outside of Japan? The NTV website blocks the viewing of the video clips on their site from non-Japanese IPs, boo, hiss. But there's no need to despair, Japanphiles - someone is posting clips from this show on YouTube , and they are very popular.
Someone sent me the link to them and I spent a good couple of hours over the weekend laughing myself silly watching all the videos. In spite of the hilarious presentation style and overall cheesiness, I was rather intrigued by the urawaza techinques. Like this one , for chicken karaage , or Japanese-style fried chicken.
Translated in a nutshell, they are saying that your chicken karaage will turn out a lot juicier if you toss it in some plain yogurt, and let it sit for 10 minutes before dusting them with the coating (in Japan, it's usually katakuriko or potato starch, but here I use cornstarch) and frying. (Ignore the YouTube comments that say it makes it oilier; they don't know what they are watching obviously. That's meat juice oozing out, not oil!) I know that chicken is often marinated in yogurt in Indian cooking, but would it really work for deep-fried chicken bits? The challenge was on!
I used my basic chicken karaage recipe . After I had tossed the chicken pieces in the marinade of soy sauce, sake, and grated ginger, I coated them in some plain yogurt and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then, I coated them in cornstarch and fried them as usual.
The result? Yes, the chicken does turn out juicy! And there's no yogurt taste!
I failed partially in my attempt at scientific accuracy though since 1) I didn't reserve a few non-yogurt-coated pieces for control purposes, and 2) I failed to capture an adequate picture of the "juiciness". Actually the karaage disappeared as fast as I could cook them and there were none left to photograph. Therefore I determine this to be a success, and give this urawaza two thumbs up.
The video also claims that the chicken will remain juicy even when it's at room temperature, making it perfect for obento.
I may try out a few more of those urawaza, though I do draw the line at this one .
[Update, Sep. 6 2006]: Unfortunately all the 'urawaza' videos have been taken down from YouTube and the uploader's account has been suspended... :( The thing that really kills me about this is that NTV blocks all non-Japanese IPs from the archives area of this show, so you can't even access the recipes and hints, let alone the video clips, if you live outside of the country. The YouTube video clips had tons of fans, and I think even helped to spread Japanese culture around the world in their own small way. I will never understand the backwards thinking and narrowmindedness of traditional media...or should I say, of their lawyers.