Ming Tsai’s Blue Dragon Buttermilk Tempura Chicken

Previously, on tastingmenu.wordpress.com –

* https://tastingmenu.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/ming-tsais-asian-slaw/

A while back, my wife and I had the opportunity to have dinner at Chef Ming Tsai’s gastropub in the Fort Point Channel district in Boston.  Who doesn’t have memories of having deep fried chicken growing up?  So my wife and I ordered the  Buttermilk Tempura Chicken platter to share as part of dinner.   I recently been wanting to have deep fried chicken again but wanted to be able to make it at home. Fortunately, I happened to have a copy of Chef Tsai’s Simply Ming: One-Pot Meals, which had a copy of his Spicy Fried Chicken With Crispy Onion Rings (p, 129,129) an decided to use that as a guide.

As it would turn out, I ran across a video at:

( https://youtu.be/K2hgPbod8S8?t=90 )

where Chef Tsai makes the comment that he uses rice flour rather than the all purpose flour that he details in his cookbook (see time index 2m 15s ) which makes the chicken more crispy.  So it got me thinking – we usually do 3 or 4 chicken thighs for dinner at home,

opening the thigh and cutting along both sides of the bone

and so I thought – why not bone out the thighs to make it even easier to eat.

thigh bone frenched before extraction

I then got lucky and found:

( https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a78c211f43b55e59fff1a37/t/5a9d89498165f57da09f54d7/1520273737973/Episode+1510+Ken+Oringer.pdf )

where the Blue Dragon recipe was listed as:

Fried Chicken

  • Salt and Sugar Brine (equal parts)
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2.5-3oz pieces (thirds or halved depending on thigh size)

1. Make the brine for the chicken thighs. Mix together equal parts sugar and salt with water until you have sweet salt water. Place the

a little salt for the brine

chicken thighs in the brine and let sit overnight.  Based on the writing of Michael Ruhlman,

equal amount of sugar for the brine

(http://ruhlman.com/2010/10/07/how-to-brine-chicken-quick-brine-recipe/ ) I chose to mix up:

water for brining

2 c boiling water
1/4c + 2 T salt
1/4c + 2 T sugar

dissolving the salt/sugar in boiling water

and let that rest to room temperature

adding the boned out chicken thighs with the brine

and those measurements seem to echo those at Cook’s Country (https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5804-brining-meat)

2. Remove the chicken thighs from the brine and rinse.

As it would turn out from a subsequent dinner at the restaurant (5 Oct 2019) and reordering the chicken, I learned from Chef Canlas through my waiter that the amount of rice flour and cornstarch for the seasoned flour was in equal parts, implying that 24 oz of both rice flour and cornstarch.  And thus the batter would also use 24 oz of rice flour.  Additionally, they used 1/4 c of shichimi togarashi in the seasoned flour.  The recipe itself looked like a lot, so scaling it down, I got:

most of the ingredients for the batter and the seasoned flour

For the batter –

  • 12 oz rice flour (by weight) – this would turn out to be 2 cups
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg (1/2 an egg?) [1 T egg white, 1/2 T egg yolk]
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/8 cup (2 T) Valentino Hot Sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soda water

the original 1/2 c of buttermilk. I would have to add. I would have to pull 4 more 1/2 c!

As it would turn out, the amount of buttermilk was just WRONG. I would have to use 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk to reach the pancake batter consistency.

Adding in the 2 c of rice flour (12 oz)

In light of the apparent publishing mistake in the Simply Ming PBS TV recipe, it just seemed like 1 egg (not 1/2 egg) was the correct amount as well.

Adding a whole egg to the batter

Now it was just a matter of adding the heat from the the Valentina sauce and lightening the batter with

portioning out the hot sauce for the tempura batter


pouring in the hot sauce to be blended


hot sauce blended into the batter, changing the colour to slightly pink

the baking powder and the ice cold soda water.

baking powder for the batter (to interact with the buttermilk?)


3/4t of baking powder


ice cold soda water to help lighten the batter


soda water added to the batter

And so I mixed all the ingredients for the batter in that bowl and set it aside; The batter had the correct expected pancake batter-like consistency.

For the seasoned flour –

12 oz of rice flour

  • 2 T kosher salt (I used sea salt here)
  • 2 T ground ginger
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T black pepper
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 12 oz rice flour – this would turn out to be 2 cups
  • 12 oz cornstarch – this would turn out to be 2 1/3 cups
  • 2 T shichimi togarashi

2 1/3 c of cornstarch


Adding in all the rest of the seasoning ingredients for the rice flour/cornstarch mix

Mix the ingredients  for the seasoned flour in a separate bowl/tray.

seasoned flour blended by shake-n-bake mode

So I used the lower right front burner with a wok and filled it with two bottles of rice oil (thank you Matsuhisa-sama for that tempura

heating rice oil for the chicken tempura

cooking information).  On the counter to the right of the wok, the top left corner of the counter, I placed the bowl of batter.  Right below the batter bowl and next to the wok, I put a bowl with HALF the seasoning flour dredge. Next to the batter bowl, I put the extracted brined chicken (in another bowl).  I pre-heated the wok with rice oil to 350 degrees F – and this would turn out to be 54% max

frying it up golden brown and delicious!

power on my electric stove.  Once I got started, I dipped a chicken thigh into the bowl with the batter, and let the extra drip off and then dredge into the bowl with the flour mixture. At that point the chicken was slid into the hot oil.  I cooked two thighs at a time.  Processing the 4 boned out chicken thighs, it turned out HALF the seasoned flour was enough for dish.  As it would turn out, I fried the chicken until golden brown and delicious, and instead of the expected 8-10 minutes, it would take me at least 15 minutes for the chicken to cook through properly (no pink inside). Once cooked, the chicken was placed on Japanese-style rack to drain excess oil.

To complete the dish, I placed a nice mound of the Ming Tsai’s Asian Slaw onto one side of the plate and then a nice piece of the chicken along side.

Blue Dragon Buttermilk Tempura Chicken and Asian Slaw

Upon tasting the meal with Ming Tsai’s Asian Slaw my wife remarked that the slaw was the perfect match for the chicken. Moreover, the chicken had that nice crunchy crust and well seasoned flavor that I was expecting.  My wife’s  only critique of the dish was that the chicken was a tiny bit on the salty side.   So that suggested to me that the brine needed to be:

2 c boiling water
1/8 c + 1 T salt
1/8 c + 1 T sugar

and the seasoned flour needed to be:

  • 1 T sea salt
  • 2 T ground ginger
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T black pepper
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 2 1/3 cups cornstarch
  • 2 T shichimi togarashi

and the corrected batter would have to be:

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/8 cup (2 T) Valentino Hot Sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soda water

Perhaps a ‘small portion’ version of this dish might be part of a omakase/kaiseki agemono ‘fried’ course for the holiday season!

Update (5 Apr 2020) –

I just came across an OFFICIAL correction for the tempura batter from Simply Ming with Sara Moulton ( https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a78c211f43b55e59fff1a37/t/5e21b09a977670311f8c4a03/1579266204907/1709+Sara+Moulton.pdf  )

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup Valentino hot sauce
  • 3 1/2 cup tablespoons soda water, or enough to make it a pancake batter consistency

I think there is another confused typo from the Simply Ming program regarding the last line of the batter recipe.  The recipe I estimated when made into a half order nearly matches the ‘corrected official’ recipe.  I suspect the last line should read:

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soda water, or enough to make it a pancake batter consistency

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