Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo (burdock root) or any root vegetable


Chicken Karaage or Japanese/Chinese style deep fried chicken (here’s the recipe I posted for it 6 (!) years ago) is a great bento item, since it’s flavorful and non-greasy even when cold. But many people find deep frying in general, and deep frying in the morning in particular, quite intimidating. Besides, even if it is lighter than your regular southern fried chicken, I guess many people find it hard to justify eating fried foods for lunch at any time.

To address both those concerns, here’s a recipe for pan-fried crispy chicken that uses precooked chicken or turkey. Dark meat works best (though you can try it with white meat), so this is a way to use up your leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey thighs and legs, leaving the white meat for late night sandwiches with cranberry sauce and such treats. You just need enough oil in the pan to prevent the surface of the chicken from sticking, and to give it a nice crisp finish. Since the meat is already cooked, there are no worries about leaving it in long enough to cook through - it just has to heat up.


To add crispiness, fiber, and vegetable-goodness to the chicken, I’ve used some thinly shaved or sasagaki cut burdock root (gobo). You could use any hard root vegetable instead of gobo - carrot should work fine, parsnip or salsify would be great. Even sweet potato should work.

Recipe: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo (burdock root)


Makes 10 to 12 nuggets

  • 8 oz / 225 g cold cooked dark meat of chicken or turkey, cut into 10-12 chunks or strips
  • 3/4 cup thinly shaved or very finely julienned gobo (burdock root) or carrot or parsnip or salsify etc.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (regular dark)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sake or sherry (leave out if you don’t have any)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • vegetable or olive oil for cooking

The key to success with this dish is to have chunks of chicken or turkey that are cold (refrigerated) and firm. Overcooked meat that’s already falling apart will turn out rather messy, though it may still taste good.

Combine the chicken or turkey chunks with the soy sauce, ginger and sake in a bowl. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 1/2 an hour if possible; if you’re short on time, just massage the flavors in with your hands a bit and proceed.

Add the shredded vegetables and cornstarch to the bowl. Toss or stir to coat the chunks all over with the cornstarch and the vegetables, pressing the coating onto the pieces of chicken or turkey. You may end up with some chunks of only vegetable, but don’t worry, just cook those along with the nuggets.

Heat up a large frying pan over high heat with enough oil to coat the bottom to a depth of about 1/8th of an inch (.2 cm or so). Add the nuggets, spread apart so they’re not touching, to the pan. Cook until golden brown and crispy (2-3 minutes), turn over and repeat. You may need to turn them over one or two times more to get the desired degree of crispy-golden-brownness.

Remove the nuggets from the pan and drain well on paper towels. Eat as is piping hot, or let cool to room temperature before packing into a bento box.

This does taste better when eaten fairly soon after it’s made, so I would suggest not making it earlier than the night before you intend to eat it.


Shameless plug: you can find more panfried chicken nugget recipes in The Just Bento Cookbook ^_^;

Speaking of cold turkey breast with cranberry sauce sandwiches, although I am emphatically not a fan of roast turkey (yes I’ve tried it brined, fried, Turduckened, etc. - don’t try to convince me otherwise, won’t work) I do love cold turkey sandwiches. Being that I’m in Japan this week I will miss out on that this year, as well as my favorite Thanksgiving side, which comes from Paula Dean. It consists of chilled canned cranberry sauce, the kind that plops out in one gelationous lump, sliced into rounds and sandwiched with thick slices of Philadelphia cream cheese. I know it sounds very suspicious but it’s so good.

Happy Thanksgiving (and feasting) to everyone in the U.S.! ^_^

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Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Your favourite Thanksgiving side does sound suspicious indeed :) But do you eat it like that, or on bread? I can see it definitely working on bread, but I don't think I'd like it as is. Does Thanksgiving in Japan get any resonance at all? Everybody ignores it in Europe, unless they come from the US.

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Well, as I understand it, Thanksgiving is a specifically American harvest festival, and pretty much all countries have their own harvest festivals. Japan has Labour Thanksgiving Day, on November 23rd. When I was a kid, we brought in tinned food, veg etc to school to hand out to the old people locally, but I've always seen the UK Harvest Festival as something intrinsically connected with the church. There's no real need for it to be soley that, though, as the harvest festival dates back to...well, as long as people have been thankful for a good harvest! The beginnings of agriculture, I guess!

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday….the Canadians have their own Thanksgiving, in early October I believe. It would be very weird if Thanksgiving were celebrated in Japan by the Japanese since it’s a day that started out as a way for the Pilgrims to give thanks for their new life in the New World or something like that ^_^;

The Japanese ‘thanks for labor’ day or kinrou kansha no hi (勤労感謝の日)is equivalent to the American Labor Day. There are similar ‘thanks to workers’ type days elsewhere too, e.g. May Day in many European countries. But there is no equivalent to Thanksgiving Day in Japan. The equivalent just in terms of a day of rest when everyone is off work almost, would be New Year’s Day.

(I guess I should say just for any people who stumble on this site and don’t know my background, that although I’m a weirdo who is originally from Japan and living in Europe right now, I’m a U.S. citizen, so Thanksgiving is “my” holiday too! ^_^)

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

I always considered Thanksgiving as a distinctly American holiday. The Pilgrims thanked God and the Native Americans for their survival after an extremely harsh winter. So while I wouldn't be surprised if every culture had a harvest festival or a day dedicated to gratitude, Thanksgiving has its roots in America's history specifically.

In contrast, when my (American) family was out of the country for awhile, various families from other countries that used to be British colonies celebrated 4th of July as a general "Freedom from the British" day ^^. We basically just put our independence days all on the same day ^^.

Not that I don't love the British.

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

I got my Just Bento Cookbook yesterday and can't wait to start using it for my daughter's bentos. Thank you for such a great book.

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Thank you for buying it, and I'm glad you like it! ^_^

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

I have a question about burdock. I have never heard of this and I am curious about where I can get some to try. I am thinking of getting seeds to start this coming spring, however, I don't want to plant something that I might not care to eat.

Other than the q about burdock, this looks wonderful and I might try some with the parsnip around Christmas.

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Any Japanese or Korean grocery store should carry burdock root, especially in the winter months. They are very long (a yard or more sometimes) and light brownish.

Re: Pan-fried crispy chicken or turkey nuggets with gobo ...

Hi Maki,
I have now made this recipe twice and love it. I was able to make a bento lunch for my mom and I the other day and she enjoyed the chicken very much. Thank you for the good recipes and informative and entertaining blogs.

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