CORNSTARCH IS THE KEY in this recipe, inspired by Keiko Naka at Ton-Ton Japanese Food Cart. Frying in a cornstarch batter yields a fine-grained crust that is shatteringly crisp and, compared to some thick-skinned Southern-style chicken, fairly innocuous. The ginger supplies a subtle heat. If you want more fire, reach for a Korean-style chile paste.

Grab a mug of bird and go.


2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
16 chicken wing drummettes (the meaty portion of the chicken wing)
1 cup cornstarch

Peanut oil, for frying the chicken


Four 8-ounce paper coffee cups, for mugs

  1. Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken drummettes, stir to coat well, and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl and dredge the chicken drummettes in it.
  3. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a cast-iron skillet and heat over high heat until it registers 350°F on a deep fry thermometer. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the skillet, carefully add the drummettes to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked chicken drummettes to paper towels to drain.
  4. Place 4 drained chicken drummettes in each of 4 paper coffee cups so that you can ambulate and eat. For drivers, they fit in cup holders, too.

Market Street at 33rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Keiko Naka, the pigtailed proprietor of Ton-Ton Japanese Food Cart, was born in Tokyo. When I met her, she was wearing a white shirt and a blue apron and wielding a pink-handled knife. Her cart looked Hello Kitty cute. Her sign, rendered in a flourish of black, calls to mind both restrained calligraphy and exuberant graffiti.

For grab-and-go, Keiko sells onigiri—cellophane-wrapped triangles of seaweed stuffed with hashed tuna, mayo, and salted rice. I ordered a curried rice omelet and a fried chicken “mug.”

Standing in line with a paper cup full of marinated fried chicken elegantly hacked into serving pieces, I learned that ton-ton is Keiko’s take on the sound a cleaver makes when hitting a cutting board.