Taken literally, the idea of eating fried chicken from the depths of outer space doesn’t seem very appealing. “Space chickens” sound like the kind of alien race you don’t want to run into even in the campiest of sci-fi movies. But new “Black Hole” Karaage-kun bite-sized fried chicken from the Japanese convenience store Lawson isn’t meant to be taken literally. Instead, it’s the latest product to jump on the black food trend – fried chicken bites that use three different black ingredients to cast each nugget with an otherworldly darkness.
According to the Japanese site SoraNews24, Lawson began selling this limited-time-only Black Hole Karaage-kin chicken this past Monday as a cross-promotion with the popular Japanese manga franchise Space Brothers about siblings with astronaut aspirations. Each black morsel uses three different ingredients to achieve their meteorite-like appearance: bamboo charcoal, squid ink and black pepper. Beyond acting as simple food coloring, this trio of additives also affects the chicken’s taste, delivering “a more intense flavor than the already-tasty standard Karaage-kun,” as SoraNews24’s Casey Baseel writes.
If this all sounds like a dark meat dream come true, you’ll want to act relatively fast (not like speed-of-light fast, but you don’t want to dawdle either) because Lawson’s says only 2.1 million orders of the black chicken dish will be served across all of the store’s locations before the item’s run is over.
Though black colored foods have gotten a bit of traction here in the U.S.—for example, TGI Fridays introduced an activated charcoal “Black Friday Cocktail” to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving—Japan has gone especially gaga for turning food items into this often unnatural color. The Asian nation has gotten everything from black Doritos to a Burger King cheeseburger featuring both a black bun and black cheese to an all-black hot dog from Ikea.
So why are the Japanese more likely to score crazy black-hued foods? Well, according to a 2014 article from The Cut, written during the height of that Burger King black cheeseburger craze, Appalachian State University marketing professor Eva Hyatt suggested, “Here we associate black with death (unlike the Japanese, who associate white with death) and might think that black food is molded or spoiled (i.e., dead and inedible), or else associated with the flavor licorice. The Japanese, on the other hand, are used to eating black seaweed, fermented black bean-paste-based foods, black walnut powder, squid ink, and a lot of gray, muted-colored foods, so a black burger bun and cheese would not seem too alien to them.” Okay, but what if that black food is fried chicken from outer space? That sounds pretty alien, right??