Best har cheong gai in Singapore

Bursting with divine juices and encased in crisp skins, these 10 finger-licking chicken dishes are the undisputed darlings of the tze char table.
By epicure
Published on Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014

TWO CHEFS EATING PLACE
At Two Chefs, the generous batter completely engulfs the drumlets, midjoints and wings. The prawn paste strikes a perfect balance with its juicy meat, making the freshly fried wings just the thing to go with an ice cold beer. #01-129, 116 Commonwealth Crescent. Tel: 6472 5361

POW SING RESTAURANT
Although the Hainanese establishment’s chicken rice is their claim to fame, their tender, juicy and fragrant crispy fried chicken wings with prawn paste are a hidden gem. The prawn paste does not overpower, and though the batter is more substantial than usual, it is still delightfully crisp. 63/65 Serangoon Garden Way. Tel: 6282 7972

5 EMERALD HILL
The wings you get here are not specifically listed as har cheong gai and one might assume that this cocktail bar set in Emerald Hill would offer wings with more western flavours. Marinated with an aromatic prawn paste, the wings were juicy but not overly oily. The deep caramel-coloured wings were crispy from the time we had our first drink till a couple of rounds later—making an excellent bar snack. 5 Emerald Hill Road. Tel: 6732 0818

ICE COLD BEER
This quaint little bar might be the last place you expect to find har cheong gai, but be pleasantly surprised as the rich pungent fragrance of prawn paste wafts towards you once the wings are placed on your table. They are deep-fried to a golden crisp—just on the verge of being charred to give them that smoky flavour that purveyors of deep-fried food adore. 9 Emerald Hill Road. Tel: 6735 9929

BEE KIA RESTAURANT
A quick glance around the tables and you are bound to spot a piping-hot plate of har cheong gai on each of them—and we can clearly see why. The chicken is double fried at a high temperature, resulting in a super crisp, golden-brown shell that is thick enough to settle on your tongue, yet shatters with every bite. The flavours are also well-balanced, with the satisfyingly subtle touch of prawn paste mingling superbly with the juicy chicken. 326 Thomson Road, Tel: 6254 8490

KA SOH RESTAURANT
The mouthwatering aroma of Ka Soh’s har cheong gai as it leaves the kitchen is the first sign that we’re on to a winner. Sure enough, the dark brown skin is silky thin and crunches with every bite, while the warm, plump meat is perfectly infused with prawn paste flavour. The wings don’t lose their allure even after being left on the table for some time. 2 College Road. Tel: 6473 6686

BAN LEONG WAH HOE SEAFOOD
Owner Irene Teh says that for the best prawn paste, look for the jar with the “dragon head” symbol. The pungent shrimp sauce is made in the Yan Kee Oyster Sauce and Shrimp Sauce Factory in Hong Kong, with only a 15 percent salt content (the rest is pure shrimp extract). Chicken mid-wings are marinated for a mere two to four hours—any longer renders the meat an unappealing red. Just before they’re fried in boiling hot vegetable oil, the wings are dusted generously with corn flour for a shattering crunch. 122 Casuarina Road. Tel: 6452 2824

POR KEE EATING HOUSE
When this beloved tze char hotspot was closed several months back, there was great lamentation. With Por Kee now back in business, their signature har cheong gai is also here to stay for good. While slightly lacking in crunch, the skin still holds its crispiness well when left exposed for some time. This forgivable shortcoming is also more than compensated by the umami-rich shrimp flavour bursting forth from the plump meat, which is accentuated by a sweet and tangy lime-infused chilli sauce. #01-02, 69 Seng Poh Lane, Tel: 6221 0582

HONG KONG STREET CHUN KEE
Though many incarnations of the dish exist, the har cheong gai at this corner coffee shop wins hands-down. Served fresh out of the deep-fryer, the finger-licking wings barely leave an oil smear on the paper-lined basket. Each moreish bite, which brings about a satisfying crackle of prawn paste batter, reveals juicy but not overly greasy flesh and its crispiness endures even as it cools down. #01-190, 125 Bukit Merah Lane 1. Tel: 6271 8484

WHAMPOA KENG FISH HEAD STEAMBOAT
Four types of flour, including corn starch and potato starch, contribute to the golden lattice crust that coats each wing. The chicken is marinated for six to eight hours with Lee Kum Kee shrimp sauce and a host of other secret ingredients. Before each order, the poultry sizzles in hot bubbling pools of Hand Brand cooking oil, whose oxidative properties keep the crunch in each piece longer. 556 Balestier Road. Tel: 6356 7371

Excerpt from the August 2014 issue of epicure.