Now that that pun is out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the batter.

Well, another year is upon us, and you all know what that means: the 12th Karaage Grand Prix was held by the Japan Karaage Association. This tournament determines the very best in Japanese-style fried chicken nuggets and strips in the country.

The competition has been around since 2010, but in recent years it has taken on a new importance. Due to COVID-related dining restrictions, the easy to take-out nature of karaage has triggered a boom in street-side stands. Many shops that once served cups of “tapioca” bubble tea now emit the savory smell of fried chicken.

This year all eyes were on the winners in each of the four categories, but surprisingly almost everyone won!

▼  “Every karaage restaurant has won the 12th Karaage Grand Prix. I was curious so I checked their website and laughed at how they use every trick in the book to give awards.”

The tweet goes on to point out that there is a distinct category for every possible way of selling karaage, from bentos to food stands to supermarkets. Furthermore, an award was given to each of the major convenience store chains: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, and Mini Stop.

And when looking at the website, there is indeed a very long list of Karaage Grand Prix Award recipients even within each of the regional categories. One must also take into consideration the different seasoning categories like “salt” and “soy sauce” as well as the “New Wave” division, honoring up-and-comers in the field of fried chicken.

All things considered, it seems harder not to win a Karaage Gran Prix Award. Others online sensed that this might just be some kind of money-for-gold-award racket.

“When it comes to karaage, ‘gold award’ is synonymous with ‘participation award'”
“Maybe ‘gold award’ means you can buy it with money.”
“Imagine how the people who didn’t win a gold award feel.”
“Did anyone not get a gold award?”
“I wondered why I keep seeing Grand Prix stickers everywhere I went.”
“I’m going to nominate my mom’s kitchen next year.”
“It makes sense though. Above a certain line of quality, karaage doesn’t really taste that different from store to store.”

Given the information at hand, it might certainly seem that way, but looking deeper it’s actually a lot harder to get a Karaage Grand Prix Gold Award than they think.

In this year’s competition there were 921 entries from across the country. Of those only 121 earned gold awards, and among them only 14 received the Highest Gold Award. If you were to look for definitive winners, then the “Highest Gold Award” is the sticker to look out for.

▼ This year 7-Eleven was the Highest Gold Award winner in the convenience store division, upsetting the perennial favorite Karaage-Kun brand of Lawson (pictured below).

The setup of the Karaage Grand Prix is pretty much identical to how wine competitions work. Wineries come in all shapes and sizes from globally marketed brands to tiny family business, and quality can be found at each level. So by being widely inclusive it’s possible to level the playing field and really find the best of the best.

Not only that, but these events are meant to be as much a celebration of wine than as a competition. So, it’s important to recognize quality wherever it’s found instead of just discounting everything except the first place winner. That being said, the connection between wine and fried chicken is easy to miss, so the netizens’ concern over how the 12th Karaage Grand Prix is run is certainly understandable.

In the end, I think we can all agree that fried chicken is delicious however you can get it, even when it tastes like feet, sweat, and hair.

Source: Japan Karaage Association, Itai News
Photos: ©SoraNews24
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