Fried chicken by any other name would taste as sweet … is not true. If you spend any amount of time in Japan, you will soon realize that different areas have different dialects and different words for things. Sometimes there is simply a different word for the same thing: kawaii (cute) in the rest of Japan is menkoi in Hokkaido, while sometimes the thing itself has changed. Fried chicken in Japanese is karaage whereas in Hokkaido it is called zangi. In the beginning it was just a different word for the same thing but now it has evolved into a different food and you would be very remiss not to try it.
There are probably two main differences between your basic fried chicken and zangi. The first is that the meat (usually chicken but it can be pretty much anything from beef to squid) is marinated in soy sauce, sake, mirin, sesame oil, ginger, honey and garlic. The second is that the batter has a higher starch content than regular fried chicken. This causes it to form ridges when the chicken is fried leading to, in my mind, small pockets of awesome flavor! When done properly the inside of the zangi is soft and juicy and the outside is crisp with some chewy ridges.
This is karaage.
And this is zangi.
If you’re going to make these at home, you don’t need many things. Throw your marinade in a zip lock bag. You don’t have to use all of the things I’ve listed above but they do combine rather well. Add the cut up chicken and mush it around until it’s completely covered. Leave it for a while. Make your batter with equal amounts of flour and starch to get those ridges (remember: the awesome flavor pockets!). Add the chicken and completely coat it before frying. You don’t want to fry it for too long because you want the chicken to be soft and juicy.
You can buy zangi in many places in Hokkaido but there is one place that I would like to recommend. 布袋(hotei).
This is a Chinese restaurant just across the road and a little up from Tokyu Hands. If you are staying in the center of Sapporo, you can easily walk there in a few minutes. They have an extensive menu, which is all delicious, but they are known primarily for their zangi.
(The zangi is third from the left on the menu).
They have two types: salt or soy sauce flavor. Both are awesome so I would recommend getting some of each. The place is usually packed so if you are eating there be prepared to wait. They do take out as well, although it can take half an hour before your order is ready, so why not buy some zangi and go sit on a park bench in Odori Park which is about a minute away.
Information about their shop can be found on Tabelog
If you don’t feel like waiting then there is a chain of bento (Japanese boxed lunch) restaurants called Bentos that actually do a pretty good zangi.
Up until half a year ago they only did fried chicken but then they brought out their Sapporo zangi range and I think it is actually quite good. Reasonably priced, quick and tasty.
So, if you are up here and you are feeling hungry, zangi is what you want to order. You won’t regret it.