February 13, 13 | Takako Chiba
Naruto is an Otaru treasure. A long-standing staple of the community, this shop is known for serving it’s golden formula fried chicken. Once you try this chicken, any other fried chicken just wont do.
Naruto’s famous dish is the 1,100 Yen Hanshinage Chicken Meal (1,000 Yen at lunch time except on Sundays). It comes with a whole half of a chicken! How about that for a good deal?
The chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper and let sit for one day so that it can properly absorb the flavors. It’s then fried at just the right temperature in soybean oil, which cuts down on the amount of fat and leaves the chicken so light and tender, cooked to the perfect golden crispiness.
The finished chicken is left with a perfectly crisp skin and soft, juicy meat.
With only a slightly salty flavor, I could enjoy every last bite without feeling like it was too much. “It’s so big I couldn’t possibly eat all of that!” Boy was I wrong. Not only did I finish all of the chicken, but I ate all of the rice too—it was such a good pairing!
▲ If you can’t finish everything, you can take your leftovers home!
▲ The best technique for eating this chicken is to first separate the chicken from the base, and then divide it into smaller pieces. Nakamura san told me that doing so also allows you to compare the flavor of the light and dark meat.
We Asked Nakamura san, the director of Naruto, how it all started, and apparently, the former owner moved to Hokkaido from Awaji Island (off the shore of Osaka) and opened Naruto as an okonomiyaki shop in 1957.
Kansai’s popular dish of okonomiyaki brought a fresh new life to Otaru cuisine. The dish is a savory pancake made primarily of egg, cabbage and meat, cooked on a flat iron grill. Before long, they began serving not only okonomiyaki on the grills but also Otaru’s famous shrimp, squid and other seafood. The even began serving chicken on the grill.
But there was one problem: grilling chicken on an iron plate like takes a very long time. So Nakamura san thought “Why don’t we fry it?!” And with that, the Hanshinage Chicken was born!
▲ Nakamura san’s sister manages the original Naruto shop.
Naruto’s Hanshinage isn’t just for a sit-down dining experience; you can also order the chicken to go, or enjoy watching how the chicken is fried near the front of the shop.
“Around Christmas and New Years, we fry 3,000 orders a day. There’s no way one person could handle it all, so we have 5 or 6 people work in shifts to keep it going. On a normal holiday or weekend, we fry about 1,000-1,200, and on our slower days (weekdays) we fry about 300,” said Nakamura san.
When I arrived at the shop it was surprisingly empty. But I soon discovered that was truly a rare moment. Later in the afternoon, sure enough, tourists and local patrons alike filled the store.
“From grandfather to grandchild, this store has continued through three generations,” explained Nakamura san. “We still have many customers that have been with us since the beginning.”
▲ The “Okonomiyaki Era.” Nakamura san and his sisters when they were children.
▲ If the first floor fills up, there’s plenty of room on second floor.
▲ In 1965, Naruto began serving sushi as well. In addition to their famous Hanshinage chicken, they offer a diverse menu including sushi, sashimi, and donburi (rice bowls, usually with meat on top).
In Hanazono Machi there is a sister shop called ニューなると 出抜小路(New Naruto Denuki Kouji. )
New Naruto is located along the canal, so it’s a more convenient location for those going sightseeing. There’s also a party course there, so if you get the chance, I recommend trying it out with a group. In any event, it’s another member of the Naruto family so you know you’re in good hands. When you consider all three generations, Naruto is now the legacy of an entire family.
You can order Hanshinage Chicken from the homepage, but you can also find it at Hokkaido food exhibitions in department stores all over Japan. So if you happen to be near one, pop in and see if you can find Naruto’s famous fried chicken.
■ Wakadori Jidai Naruto
■ Wakadori Jidai Naruto Flagship Store
●HOURS/11:00-21:00（Last order 20:15）
●Check the website for holiday schedules.
( Hokkaido Likers Writer - Chiba Takako )
( Photography by Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer – Itsuki )