Best deep-fried Asian food: The secret to the best dishes
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When most people think of deep-fried Asian dishes, Chinese food comes to mind first. Dishes like egg rolls and wonton and obvious examples, but there are great Japanese deep-fried foods too, like takoyaki.
Deep-frying has been a fundamental cooking style in most Asian countries for ages. Using good oil ensures that the food takes on a crunchy exterior and a delicious tender interior.
Japanese and Chinese cuisine is known for great deep-fried foods and the good news is you can make them at home too.
While deep-fried foods get a bad rep these days, you should know that when done right, it is extremely tasty!
When cooked at the correct temperature with a high-temperature oil, the food doesn’t actually absorb too much oil, so your food doesn’t taste too greasy.
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In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What makes deep-fried Asian food so good?
- 2 What is the best deep-fried Asian food?
- 2.1 Abura age (Japan)
- 2.2 Agedashi tofu (Japan)
- 2.3 Banana Fritters (China)
- 2.4 Calamares (Philippines)
- 2.5 Chicken Karaage (Japan)
- 2.6 Chicken (tori) Katsu (Japan)
- 2.7 Chinese Crispy Fried Chicken (China)
- 2.8 Crispy Larb Chicken Wings (Thailand)
- 2.9 Crispy Pata (Philippines)
- 2.10 Curry Puff (Malaysia)
- 2.11 Ebi furai (Japan)
- 2.12 Egg rolls (China)
- 2.13 Fish Crackers (Southeast Asia)
- 2.14 Fried Wonton (China)
- 2.15 General Tso’s Chicken (Chinese fusion)
- 2.16 Gorengan (Indonesia)
- 2.17 Kakiage (Japan)
- 2.18 Kaki fry (Japan)
- 2.19 Kare pan (Japan)
- 2.20 Katsudon (Japan)
- 2.21 Katsu tare (Japan)
- 2.22 Korokke (Japan)
- 2.23 Kung Pao Chicken (China)
- 2.24 Kushiage (Japan)
- 2.25 Kwek kwek (Philippines)
- 2.26 Lobster Cantonese (China)
- 2.27 Lumpia (Philippines)
- 2.28 Malai Kofta (India)
- 2.29 Medu Vada (India)
- 2.30 Panipuri (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India)
- 2.31 Proben/Proven (Philippines)
- 2.32 Risoles (Indonesia)
- 2.33 Samosa (Southeast Asia)
- 2.34 Sesame Balls (China)
- 2.35 Sesame Chicken (China)
- 2.36 Spicy Korean Fried Chicken (Korea)
- 2.37 Spring Roll (Vietnam & China)
- 2.38 Sweet and sour pork or chicken (China)
- 2.39 Takoyaki (Japan)
- 2.40 Tempura (Japan)
- 2.41 Tendon (Japan)
- 2.42 Tonkatsu (Japan)
- 2.43 Youtiao (China)
- 3 Conclusion
What makes deep-fried Asian food so good?
Some deep-fried food tastes very greasy and is rather unhealthy. Think of greasy french fries and chicken at many American fast food establishments.
But, Asian fried foods tend to be very tasty and flavorful, that’s why people love them.
Chinese and Japanese foods are famous for being super tasty and not as unhealthy as many Western dishes. But there’s a secret as to why and I’m going to tell you.
It’s all about cooking at the perfect high temperature. So, you need to cook on high heat but it shouldn’t be too high.
Many dishes are burnt this way or end up cooking too fast on the outside and stay undercooked inside. This is especially common with foods like fried chicken when the meat inside isn’t properly cooked but it’s very brown on the outside.
In Asian restaurants, the chefs use cooking oil which has a high smoke point. Then, the wok or pan is preheated before the ingredients are added in.
But first, the oil must heat up to the proper temperature and chefs check this by adding some of the powder mixture used to coat the meat or vegetables.
Bubbles have to form – this confirms that the oil is hot enough for deep-frying. If, on the other hand, the powder mixture cooks instantly, that’s a sign that the oil is way too hot.
Next, when food (meat, seafood, veggies) is added to the hot oil, it must sizzle.
Another secret to perfectly fried food is to cook in batches. So, you shouldn’t cook too much food at once to ensure each piece is properly fried.
Heat adjustments have to be made while cooking because the food absorbs oil and so you also have to keep adding oil between batches.
Deep-frying in Japan
Your favorite deep-fried octopus balls (takoyaki) are just one of the many delicious Japanese deep-fried foods available.
Actually, there is a whole category of deep-fried foods, called Agemono.
Agemono encompasses 3 frying techniques:
- suage: foods are deep-fried as is with no batter or flour. Usually, this is used when frying vegetables like eggplant and peppers, or fish.
- karaage: the food is coated in flour or some arrowroot starch and then fried. This method creates a browned crispy exterior crust. It is often used to fry marinated or unmarinated meat, especially chicken.
- koromo-age: this is when food is coated with a batter, similarly to tempura. This technique is most commonly used when deep-frying seafood, fish, and vegetables.
Deep-frying in China
People always ask “is Chinese food deep-fried?”
No, most of the popular authentic Chinese food is not deep-fried. But, there are many popular deep-fried fusion Chinese dishes that are extremely popular in America and Europe.
There are many Chinese deep-fried foods, many of which contain chicken and a lot of spices.
The raw meat is cooked in hot oil and then either added to the pan for further cooking (like General Tso’s chicken) or served fried as is with tasty spices and dipping sauces.5
How is deep-frying done in China?
Usually, all the deep-frying is done in a deep fryer, a wok, or a deep saucepan which can fit a lot of oil.
People use a scoop strainer to keep all the food together. This way, the food doesn’t get all over the pan and keeps its shape.
Long chopsticks are also used to turn the food when needed.
What Chinese food is deep-fried?
As you’ll see below on my list, plenty of foods are deep-fried.
Some examples include General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour pork and chicken, wontons, and more.
What is the best deep-fried Asian food?
Here’s an extensive list of the best Asian deep-fried food and brief descriptions of each.
Abura age (Japan)
Aburaage refers to Japanese double deep-fried tofu.
First, the firm tofu is sliced and then deep-fried twice. It is fluffy but hollow inside and very crispy on the exterior.
Agedashi tofu (Japan)
Although it’s similar to aburaage, agedashi refers to deep-fried tofu with a topping of daikon, bonito flakes, and spring onions.
It is also served with a tentsuyu dipping sauce containing dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.
Banana Fritters (China)
Deep-fried banana pieces are popular sweet snacks or beloved breakfast treats in China.
The banana is coated with a very thin batter and then deep-fried until very crispy.
Calamares is a Filipino dish made of deep-fried squid.
The squid is sliced into rings and then coated with a batter before it’s deep-fried until golden and crunchy.
Calamares are served with either sweet chili sauce or mayo and catsup.
Chicken Karaage (Japan)
Chicken is one of the most popular Japanese fried meats. Tatsutaage is the marinated chicken karaage people really love.
To make this dish, the chicken is marinated with sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Then, it’s covered in arrowroot starch and fried in hot oil. Usually, it’s eaten alongside mayonnaise and rice.
Chicken (tori) Katsu (Japan)
It’s one of the most classic Japanese katsu dishes made with chicken.
The chicken breast is coated with eggs, flour, and panko breadcrumbs after which it’s fried in oil, and it becomes nice and golden with a crispy texture.
Then, the fried chicken is cut into small pieces and served with rice and a fruity katsu sauce.
Chinese Crispy Fried Chicken (China)
The Cantonese fried chicken is a very special and tasty dish. First, the chicken is steamed with spices, and only then is it deep-fried until the skin becomes extra crunchy and brown.
Although it’s spicy, this dish is amazing because the crispy chicken is covered in a sweet and sour sauce. No wonder it’s popular at weddings and celebrations across China.
Crispy Larb Chicken Wings (Thailand)
If you love chicken wings, you need to try Thai crispy larb wings which are coated in flour and deep-fried.
The deep-fried chicken wings are then drizzled with a refreshing mixture of lime and fish sauce.
Crispy Pata (Philippines)
This is one of the most popular Filipino deep-fried dishes. It is a whole pork leg that is first cooked with peppercorns, bay leaves, and other spices until it becomes amazingly tender.
Then, it’s deep-fried until it takes on a golden-brown color and because very crispy on the outside. It’s served with a tart sauce and various pickled fruit and vegetables.
Curry Puff (Malaysia)
This traditional Malaysian dish is a unique deep-fried curry ball.
Chicken and potato curry is packed into dough balls and then deep-fried until crispy and golden. This tasty lunch or dinner snack is packed with gooey curry.
Ebi furai (Japan)
This is a breaded deep-fried prawn dish. The prawns are actually a signature dish in Japan’s Nagoya region.
Large prawns are dipped into an egg wash, then into panko breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried.
Egg rolls (China)
The egg roll is probably one of the most popular Chinese fusion dishes. Although they are similar to spring rolls, the egg roll is stuffed with meat (usually pork) and all kinds of vegetables.
The pork is stir-fried first and then added into the egg roll wrapper before it’s deep-fried until super crispy.
Usually, egg rolls are served with sauces like duck sauce, sweet and sour, or oyster sauce.
Fish Crackers (Southeast Asia)
One of Asia’s most popular snacks is fish crackers.
These are made by mixing the fish paste with tapioca flour. Once they are molded into a flat cracker shape, they are deep-fried until very crispy.
Fried Wonton (China)
The fried wonton is a type of savory Chinese dumpling. It is very crispy and usually used in wonton soup.
The wonton is made with a yellow rectangular wrapper which is then filled with meat or seafood. Some varieties contain pork, mushrooms, and vegetables.
They are deep-fried but not for long, and then served as appetizers or in the soup.
General Tso’s Chicken (Chinese fusion)
General Tso’s Chicken is a fusion of Chinese and American cuisine. But it’s also one of the tastiest deep-fried chicken recipes.
It is made with fried chicken pieces which are then stir-fried with a thick sauce made of garlic, ginger, chili peppers, green onions, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and some rice vinegar.
The term Gorengan refers to a range of deep-fried snacks. Some are sweet, while some are savory. They are made by combining an egg batter with ingredients such as jackfruit, banana, tempeh, and tofu.
The ingredients are usually dipped in the batter or sliced and coated before being deep-fried. Aci Goreng, for example, is a fried tapioca dough sold at street stalls.
This is a type of tempura that is made with a coating of flour, and water. Sometimes egg yolks are added to give it a light crispiness.
Commonly deep-fried ingredients include all kinds of root vegetables, sweet potatoes, and seafood.
Kaki fry (Japan)
The Kaki fry is a Japanese oyster dish. This seasonal delicacy is made by deep-frying oysters.
First, the oysters are shucked and then coated in flour and egg then covered in panko. Then, they are deep-fried until they become very crispy and are served with lemon and sauces.
Kare pan (Japan)
The kare pan is a great snack made by stuffing dough with curry paste, covering it in breadcrumbs, and then deep-frying it.
The dough becomes crispy and golden brown while the curry oozes out. It’s actually a type of bread dish and very filling.
If you’ve had donburi rice bowls before, you’ve likely heard of katsudon.
It is a Japanese dish with deep-fried pork cutlets which are simmered with veggies, sauce, and eggs. The sauce is made with miso paste, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce.
Katsu tare (Japan)
This is a similar katsu dish but made with curry.
Tonkatsu fried breaded pork cutlets are served with a tasty curry sauce. This dish is always served on a bed of rice. In some areas, they use beef and chicken instead of pork.
This is one of the tastiest Japanese-style croquette dishes. It is made of mashed potatoes, vegetables, and either minced meat or seafood.
The mixture is shaped like a patty which is then coated with flour, eggs, and panko. Next, it’s deep-fried until crispy.
Kung Pao Chicken (China)
This is one of the best spicy fried chicken dishes, which originates in China’s Szechuan region.
The chicken is diced, then marinated, and then deep-fried along with green peppers, garlic, and peanuts.
This refers to a range of bite-sized deep-fried food, usually sold at yatai street food stalls.
The most common ingredients are seafood, fish, chicken, pork, beef, and vegetable. These are deep-fried in hot oil and skewered on a bamboo stick and served with a dipping sauce.
Kwek kwek (Philippines)
Kwek-kwek is one of the most interesting Filipino dishes. It is a boiled chicken or duck egg that is then deep-fried.
The egg is coated in a unique type of batter consisting of flour, water, cornstarch, and annatto powder which has an orange color and gives the deep-fried egg a dark orange appearance.
Eggs are dipped into a spicy and sour sauce which adds a ton of flavor.
Lobster Cantonese (China)
There’s no doubt this dish is one of the tastiest ways to cook crispy lobster.
The lobster tails are deep-fried and then stir-fried with chicken stock, spices, minced pork, vegetables, and a black bean sauce.
Lumpia is one of the Philippines’ most popular finger foods.
It is flour or rice dough that is stuffed with ground meat (usually pork or beef), cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, and some other vegetables.
Next, the dough is shaped like a spring roll and deep-fried until brown and crunchy. It is served as a snack or a side dish and can be eaten with dipping sauce.
Malai Kofta (India)
This is an Indian dish made of fried potato or paneer balls which are covered in a creamy and tasty sauce.
The kofta is a vegetarian deep-fried dumpling and it is made in a special pan, called kadai which is similar to a wok.
Medu Vada (India)
Medu Vada is the savory version of the American doughnut. Instead of being sweet, it is made of batter with black lentils, fenugreek, chili, cumin, ginger, and some other spices.
The doughnuts are deep-fried and served as a breakfast snack with some coconut chutney.
Panipuri (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India)
Panipuri is a popular street snack. It is made of hollow puri which is fried until it gets very crunchy.
Each puri is filled with pani (flavored water), chutney made of tamarind, potato, onion, spicy chili, chickpeas, and chaat masala.
This is an unusual Filipino deep-fried dish made from a chicken organ called proventriculus (similar to the gizzard).
The offal is coated in cornstarch or flour and deep-fried until the pieces are very crunchy. This is a popular snack and is sometimes served on skewers.
This is an old Indonesian dish, usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack.
It is filled with minced meat, seafood, or vegetables. In some areas, risoles are filled with various sweet fillings.
Once filled, the risole is wrapped in pastry dough, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried.
Samosa (Southeast Asia)
The samosa is a crunchy deep-fried triangular pastry. It can have all kinds of flavors.
The pastry can be filled with vegetables like lentils, onion, potatoes, and peas. A non-vegetarian samosa usually contains meat. Then the pastry is deep-fried until crunchy.
Sesame Balls (China)
One of China’s greatest rice snacks, sesame balls are just deep-fried balls made of glutinous rice flour.
Each ball is filled with red bean paste and then coated with sesame seeds. The balls have a sticky and chewy texture.
Sesame Chicken (China)
Sesame chicken is a fast-food and takeout favorite. It is made with marinated chicken breast that is deep-fried.
Then, the chicken is coated with some hot sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
Spicy Korean Fried Chicken (Korea)
If you like your fried chicken hot and spicy, Korean-style deep-fry is the way to go.
The chicken is mixed with mirin, ginger, salt, and pepper and then coated with potato starch.
Next, the chicken is deep-fried until golden and served with a spicy sauce.
Spring Roll (Vietnam & China)
The spring roll is one of the best deep-fried Asian foods of all time. It is made with minced meat, seafood, and/or vegetables, wrapped in a special wonton paper, shaped into rolls, and deep-fried.
This dish is traditionally served for Lunar New Year celebrations.
Sweet and sour pork or chicken (China)
I’m sure you’ve heard of sweet and sour pork. It’s one of the best deep-fried meaty foods.
Pork or chicken meat is cut into chunks and deep-fried until very crispy. The fried chunks are then combined with a sticky sweet and sour sauce which has a reddish color.
It is served with stir-fried peppers and onions alongside rice or noodles.
Takoyaki refers to deep-fried octopus balls. A wheat flour batter is stuffed with diced octopus meat and deep-fried in a special round mold pan.
The filling is comprised of diced octopus only. After the balls are fried in the molds, tempura scraps (tenkasu), spring onion, and pickled ginger are added as toppings alongside savory takoyaki sauce.
Tempura is another Japanese fried dish. The minimalist batter is made of flour, egg, and water.
All kinds of vegetables and seafood can be deep-fried in tempura batter for a deliciously crispy dish.
Popular ingredients include shrimp, eggplant, crab, scallops, squid, mushrooms, snow peas, asparagus, and more.
This is a tasty donburi and tempura bowl and it’s served as a one-bowl meal, full of healthy and delicious ingredients.
The deep-fried tendon is usually meat, seafood (shrimp), or vegetables like eggplant. After the ingredients are covered in tempura batter they are deep-fried and served over rice with savory dashi sauce.
When it comes to famous Japanese deep-fried meat, the tonkatsu pork cutlets are probably the most popular.
It is made by deep-frying breaded pork cutlets in hot oil and you can serve it with rice, vegetables, curry, and bread.
Youtiao, also known as cruller, is Chinese deep-fried dough sticks. It is a common breakfast food and has a long thin shape.
Because it has a light salty flavor, the fried dough is eaten fresh and golden brown as is or dipped into congee (rice porridge).
You might be tempted to heat up the pan and start deep-frying some of the tasty foods I talked about.
Just remember the secret to cooking in hot oil: it has to be at the right temperature or else it will burn your ingredients and you’ll lose that perfect crispy texture you want.
You can actually make all the authentic deep-fried foods at home with a bit of practice.
Getting an oil with a high smoke point is the first step to deep-frying and once you perfect the method, you’ll be making all the tasty recipes in no time!
After all, who can resist tempura and sweet and sour chicken?
Check out our new cookbook
Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.
Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:Read for free
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.