The small karaage, a delicate and complex fried chicken variant, is one of Japan’s most well-known delicacies. But why is Nakatsu, a little village in Japan, and possibly the entire world, known for producing the best-fried chicken?

Karaage first appeared in a Chinese restaurant called Rairaiken in Usa City, a town close to Nakatsu City. In the late 1950s, the restaurant began serving deep-fried chicken karaage as a part of a set meal. Usa currently boasts more than 40 karaage restaurants, making it one of the centers for this deliciously crisped fried food. The move to the adjacent Nakatsu, however, is what gave this fried chicken its fame on a national, and then international, scale. In Nakatsu, two cooks started their own karaage business. To improve the flavor of the chicken, they added apple chunks and soaked it in salty water for a longer period of time. The shops immediately became well-known and grew in number, establishing Nakatsu’s status as the inventor of karaage. Chefs have experimented with everything from frying durations and batters to a range of soy- and salt-based marinades, creating healthy competition among the approximately 50 restaurants.

Karaage represents creativity and perseverance in Japan. And what makes the people of Nakatsu feel most at home is the food.