Pieces of chicken are coated with shrimp paste marinade and fried! It’s definitely not your ordinary fried chicken! Served with the crispy bits made from the marinade. Umami to the max!
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH HAR CHEONG GAI AND I NEVER LOOKED BACK!
There are two people on this earth I would like to blame for my cravings to shrimp paste chicken or they call it prawn paste fried chicken in Singapore. They are my sister and brother in law! (I would like to thank them at the same time of course!). They brought me to this place to have dinner when I was in Singapore for their wedding in 2012 and when I saw this shrimp paste chicken on the menu, immediately it drew my attention and I was eager to try it and so we did.
Now people, first thing first! I’ve heard many people who have never tasted or SMELL shrimp paste before said “EWEE…..it STINKS!” Yes, it does stink to the max! Not the kind of stink like garbage stink! But you know, it’s strong! It’s hard to describe the smell. My daughter couldn’t stand it too! But does she eat this shrimp paste chicken? Yes she does and she likes it!
WHAT IS HAR CHEONG GAI?
Har Cheong Gai is one of the popular food you will find at the majority of Singapore Tze Char (Zhu Chao), which literally means cook and stir-fry. There are many Tze Char places in Singapore that cook home-cooked meals at very affordable prices and delicious too! I miss all these food stalls at the hawker centers! But har cheong mean shrimp paste in Cantonese. Gai means chicken. The chicken pieces, usually mid-section of chicken wings are marinated in shrimp paste and then deep-fried.
WHAT DO HAR CHEONG GAI SMELL LIKE OR EVEN TASTE LIKE?
It doesn’t smell as pungent after you cooked it. To me, the cooking process turn this stinky stuff into savory, sweet, and umami kinda good! Most Southeast Asian natives love shrimp paste. We call it belacan or terasi in Indonesia. In Indonesia I remember my mom used to buy belacan/terasi that comes in block and some will toast it first before using. It’s hard to find that here in Minnesota. This recipe calls for the “wet” version anyway, which is widely available anywhere in Asian grocery stores.
HOW TO MAKE FRIED CHICKEN ULTRA CRISPY?
It is no secret that double frying your chicken gives you that ultra-crispy results. The first frying is to cook the chicken in medium heat. The result will not be crispy. It’s only to make sure the chicken pieces are cooked through.
The second frying is where the crispy action is going on. The temperature is raised and the chicken pieces are fried quickly until perfectly brown and crispy.
My husband and kids were downright impressed by this shrimp paste chicken! “The best I’ve ever tasted” he said!
Ultra Crispy Shrimp Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai)
- 500 gr chicken wings (mid sections) bones and skin intact
- Oil for deep-frying
Chili sauce (optional):
- 3-4 dried red chili such as chile Guajilo (more if you use smaller dried chili)
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp Pinch of salt
- Juice of 1 lime
Marinate the chicken:
- Dissolve the sugar in hot water. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients
- Clean the chicken wings by rinsing in cold running water. Cut the chicken wing into two pieces discard the wing tip. Put the chicken into the marinade you prepare above. Make sure every piece is coated and let them marinade for at least one hour if you are pressing for time, but best if you can marinate overnight for 8 hours or more
Prepare the batter:
- Mix the cornstarch, flour, and baking powder in a bowl. Stir to mix. Crack in eggs and add water. Stir to mix until you get a smooth batter
- Get the chicken out from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking. When ready to fry, in a deep pot, heat enough oil for deep-frying. If you have a deep-fry thermometer, heat the oil until it registers 300 F (150 C)
- Coat the chicken pieces in the batter. Fry the chicken few at a time, don't overcrowd the pot or you will lower the temperature of the oil too much and your chicken will end up too greasy. Fry until the chicken pieces are golden brown and cooked through inside, about 5-8 minutes. Place on an absorbent paper towel and continue on with the rest until you are done frying all the chicken. This part is to cook the chicken but they won't be crispy. Let them rest for about 15 minutes before frying for the second time
- Remove all the loose bits in the oil. Heat the oil back up to 375 F (190C) if you have a thermometer. We are going to fry them for the second time. will give the chicken a nice crispy crust and darker golden brown color to it. Do this in batches and this round will not take long, as the chicken will cook faster. Remove to an absorbent paper towel. This part is to crisp up the chicken
Preparing the chili sauce (can be made few days ahead):
- Soak the chili in warm water for 15 minutes. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process into a smooth paste. Pour in a small saucepan and let it cook for about 5 minutes. It should have a hint of sweetness with that zing from the lime and savory at the same time