Chicken Nanban on a bed of lettuce on a plate with flowers in the background

Chicken Nanban

Chicken Nanban is a famous dish that comes from from Miyazaki, Japan.  Coated Fried Chicken is marinated in a sweet vinegar soy sauce, and then topped with a delicious homemade tartar sauce loaded with eggs, onions and cucumber.

Chicken Nanban is a dish that features succulent boneless fried chicken, marinated in a sweet and tangy “nanban” sauce, and then topped with homemade Japanese tartar sauce.  Chicken Nanban is a popular dish famous across all of Japan, that originated in Nobeoka, a city in Miyazaki Prefecture located on the Pacific Coast in Kyushu. Miyazaki, a city that is known for is known for its scenic coastline, fragrant bougainvilleas, and palm trees, is also famous for many types of food prepared with local ingredients.

When preparing Chicken Nanban, make the tartar sauce first and refrigerate it so that it has cooled down when you serve it over your chicken. The homemade sauce uses minced fried onions that will be hot, so when combined with the other ingredients the sauce will be warm and runny until refrigerated.  The other ingredients in the tartar sauce include Japanese cucumber and hard boiled egg- both minced finely – and mixed in with rice vinegar, Japanese mayonnaise and salt and pepper.

The secret to soft and succulent chicken is to coat it in egg and then dip it in flour.  The coating keeps the chicken soft and the nanban marinade soaks into the coating which enhances the flavor.  You can use whole chicken breast or if you prefer, smaller pieces of thigh meat.  The coating will keep the chicken breast moist, so either breast or thigh will come out moist and tender when you fry it.

The nanban sauce is simple to prepare.  Just heat the ingredients in a pot so that the sugar dissolves and bring to a light boil.  Once the sauce is heated up, put it aside to use as a marinade.  When the chicken comes out of the fryer, toss it in the marinade until the chicken is moist and takes on a darker color.

Final preparation is easy.  You can plate the chicken into individual servings or bring it out on one serving platter.  I usually plate on top of lettuce leaves- the nanban sauce makes a great dressing and can be enjoyed with the chicken.  Top with a generous portion tartar sauce – either chilled or at room temperature.  Unlike the condiment, Japanese nanban chicken tartar sauce can eaten on its own.

Chicken Nanban is a wonderful meal to enjoy with your family anytime, and it also makes a great appetizer you can enjoy with a cold beer.

Try this amazing Kyushu recipe and let me know what you think by commenting below.

Chicken Nanban

There are three components to this Miyazaki favorite.  The first is soft and succulent bones fried chicken.  The second is the sweet, vinegary, peppery marinade.  The third is the homemade tartar sauce loaded with egg, cucumber, and fried onions – really a salad in and of itself that complements the marinated chicken.

1 hour 10 minutes Serves 8
PREP 1 hour
COOKING 10 minutes
YIELD Serves 8
Chicken Nanban on a bed of lettuce on a plate with flowers in the background


Fried Chicken

  • 2 lbs chicken thighs
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 2-3 Cups Rice Bran Oil for Deep Frying Chicken (vegetable, canola or other unflavored oil can be used)

Ingredients for Fried Chicken

Nanban Marinade

  • 1/4 Cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce (Shoyu)
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP Mirin

Ingredients for Nanban Marinade

Tartar Sauce

  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 1 Japanese Cucumber (or 1/2 American Cucumber)
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1/2 cup Japanese Mayonnaise
  • 1 TBSP Rice Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper mix

Ingredients for Tartar Sauce


  • Prepare the Tartar Sauce
    • Mince the onion.  Sauté the onion in 2 tsps cooking oil over medium high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the onion becomes soft and translucent.  Mix in the salt and pepper.  Add the cooked onion to a mixing bowl.

Cooked onions In a bowl

    • Chop off the ends of the cucumber and dice the cucumber finely.  Add to the mixing bowl.
    • Dice the Hard Boiled Egg finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
    • Add the mayonnaise and vinegar to the mixing bowl.  Stir together well until the ingredients are well combined.  Put the Tartar sauce in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Tartar Sauce close up

  • Prepare the Nanban Marinade
    • Add the soy sauce, vinegar, mirin and sugar to a pot and stir constantly  over medium heat until the sauce boils and the sugar is all dissolved.

Cooking Nanban Marinade in a pan

    • Pour the sauce into an 8×8 baking pan (or a large mixing bowl) and set aside.
  • Deep fry the chicken
    • Remove any skin and dice the chicken into bite sized pieces.
    • Heat the oil in a fry pan until it reaches 170 degs C/340 degs F.
    • Beat the egg together with the soy sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper.
    • Dip the chicken in the egg mixture and then the flour.
    • After the chicken is coated, fry in batches for 3-4 minutes until cooked.

Frying Chicken In oil

    • Put the chicken on a rack or oil paper for about a minute to drain excess oil.
  • Toss the fried chicken in the Nanban sauce until the chicken is moist and brown.

Chicken in Nanban marinade

  • Place the chicken on a plate.  Top with a generous portion of Tartar Sauce.

Nanban Chicken over a bed of lettuce



  • How warm should the tartar sauce be when you serve it?  If the chicken is hot, then make sure the tartar sauce is slightly chilled.  The chicken will heat up and soften the tartar sauce which is perfect- the trick is for the tartar sauce not to be too cold when you eat it.
  • Breast or thigh- the eternal argument.  Both work great in this recipe- generally a whole breast or thigh nuggets are used.  Choose for yourself or try both.
  • You can refrigerate leftover chicken for up to 3 days and then reheat it, but make a fresh batch of tartar sauce each time you serve leftovers – you won’t be sorry.


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