Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber

Try this great chicken recipe from Diana Henry

by Psychologies

Food writer Diana Henry is a Psychologies favourite – every book she produces is a bewitching combination of want-to-make-it-right-now photography and thoughtful, in-depth writing.

Her latest, A Change Of Appetite (Mitchell Beazley, £25), directs these skills in the service of food that appeals to your mind and heart as well as your stomach. Her writing often comes close to poetry and these dishes are too. Here’s one of our favourites, worth taking some time over:


Diana says: ‘This dish has a great interplay of temperatures. The chicken is hot and spicy, the cucumber like eating shards of ice (make sure you serve it direct from the fridge). The cucumber recipe is adapted from a recipe in a wonderful American book called Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. You can also make the chicken with boneless thighs and griddle them.’

Serves 4



3 ½ tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp sake or dry sherry

3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar

½ tbsp brown miso

60g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and finely grated

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 tsp togarashi seasoning (available in Waitrose), or

½ tsp chilli powder

8 good-sized skinless bone-in chicken thighs, or other bone-in chicken pieces


500g (1lb 2oz) cucumber

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp pink pickled ginger, very finely shredded

A small handful of shiso leaves, if available, or mint leaves, torn (optional)


  1. Mix everything for the chicken (except the chicken itself ) to make a marinade. Pierce the chicken on the fleshy sides with a knife, put the pieces into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over. Massage it in well, turning the pieces over. Cover and put in the fridge for 30–60 minutes.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Take the pieces out of the marinade and put them in a shallow ovenproof dish in which they can sit snugly in a single layer. Pour over half the marinade. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, basting every so often with the juices and leftover marinade (don’t add any leftover marinade after 20 minutes, it needs to cook properly as it has had raw chicken in it). Check for doneness: the juices that run out of the chicken when you pierce the flesh with a knife should be clear and not at all pink.
  3. When the chicken is halfway through cooking, peel and halve the cucumber and scoop out the seeds. Set on a board and bang the pieces gently with a pestle or rolling pin. This should break them up a little. Now break them into chunks with your hands. Crush the garlic with a pinch of the salt and massage this – and the rest of the salt – into the cucumber. Put in a small plastic bag, squeeze out the air and put in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. When you’re ready to eat, tip the cucumber into a sieve so the juices can drain away. Add the shredded ginger. You can add shiso leaves if you can find them (I can’t, I have no Japanese shop nearby). Nothing else really tastes like it, but I sometimes add mint.
  5. Serve the chicken with brown rice or rice vermicelli (the rice vermicelli is good served cold) and the cucumber.

Try this with… edamame and sugar snap salad

Serves 4

  1. Mix 2 tbsp white miso paste, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp groundnut oil, 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp runny honey and 2cm (3/4in) peeled, grated root ginger.
  2. Toss with 100g (31/2oz) cooked edamame beans, 100g (31/2oz) raw sugar snap peas, sliced lengthways, 8 sliced radishes and a handful of mizuna.

Photograph: Laura Edwards

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