When it comes to indulgent gluttony, nothing quite beats the satisfying crunch of a juicy, golden piece of fried chicken. As a global city, Hong Kong is saturated with fried chicken styles from all over the world. The Korean fried chicken craze is just the latest in a strong line-up of contenders for the best fried chicken in town.
But who rules the roost? To fairly compare fried chicken, we rounded up 10 of Hong Kong's fried chicken experts under one roof so that we could taste each contender fresh from the fryer and compare them side by side.
The heated competition took place at Jinjuu, a hip Korean restaurant in the heart of LKF, and we, the lucky members of the press, tied on our grease-proof bibs and sacrificed our waistlines in the interest of this profoundly important research. So let's get cluckin' and see what we thought of each contender.
Note: the competition was divided into five segments, with two fried chicken going head to head at any given time. Fried chicken styles were divided between Eastern and Western cuisines, so each round saw an "East" and "West" competitor.
Okra, Chef Max Levy
First to charge into the ring was Chef Levy's chicken tatsuta with tofu grits with pickled okra and lotus root. The irresistibly succulent chicken had just the right amount of golden crunch and was delicious seasoned with garlic, cayenne and pepper. We loved the slight spicy notes in the crispy yet not over-battered crust. Chef Levy makes fresh tofu daily, and the tofu grits reflected the convergence of his culinary influences – classic Southern grits with Asian ingredients. The chicken was brined in the water left over from the tofu-making process, making even the white meat incredibly tender and juicy. The superb quality of the free-range chicken from Jiangmen, China, also added to the flavour of the dish.
110 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, 2806 1038
Momojein, Chef Lim Hee Won
Going head to head with Okra was the country fried chicken from Korean restaurant Momojein. The chicken was brined for 12 hours in salt water and a mix of garlic, onion, celery, carrot, ginger and bay leaf before being fried whole. We were told that it is a Korean tradition to fry the chicken whole and then cut it up right before serving. The ensemble arrived with an assortment of pickles and dipping sauces and a mountain of fried lotus root. However, we found the chicken to be rather flavourless and quite dry. The batter was on the thick side and lacked seasoning. Needless to say, it did not measure up to Okra's.
You can read more about Momojein here.
23/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2789 1949
Jan Jan Kushikatsu, Chef Hideki Abeyama
We always love a good karaage, especially with a glass of ice-cold Asahi draft. Jan Jan Kushikatsu's version stayed away from the heavy, garlicky flavours often associated with this Japanese bar snack and came accompanied by wasabi mayonnaise. The meat was tender and juicy, yet we found the chicken rather bland.
You can read more about Jan Jan Kushikatsu here.
2/F, 100 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, 2157 1408
Moonshine & The Po'Boys, Chef Tim Lau
We love a good Southern fried chicken and were highly anticipating Po'Boys' 48-hour marinated buttermilk chicken. It arrived alongside spicy jambalaya and green apple coleslaw. The chicken we had that night was very different from the one we had tasted a month ago at the actual restaurant, so we think the recipe may have been tweaked a bit. This newest version was over seasoned and excessively salty, although we liked the blend of Cajun spices and herbs. While tender, the texture of the meat was disconcertingly mushy, as if the whole lot had been cooked in a pressure cooker.
4 Sun Street, Wan Chai, 2776 2668
The Butchers Club, Chef Aarik Persaud and Chef Tom Brimble
The Butchers now host a fried chicken night at their Steak Frites restaurant every Wednesday night, so we were keen to sink our teeth in their buffalo-style fried chicken, tossed in Frank's RedHot sauce and drizzled with blue cheese, to see if their speciality organic chicken stacks up to the competition. The chicken thighs were juicy and tender, although too overwhelmingly rich when paired with the creamy blue cheese sauce. It was just fat piled on top of fat, with no distinct flavour profile.
You can read more about The Butchers Club Chicken Shack here.
UG/F, 56 Staunton Street, Soho, Central, 2858 9800
IR 1968, Chef Simon
Using a family recipe from over a hundred years ago, the Indonesian fried chicken, marinated in lemongrass, shallot, ginger, candlenut and shallot, tasted like a holiday. One bite and we are transported to the black, sandy beaches of Bali. The tender, juicy chicken had powerful aromatic flavours, which were made even better by the garlicky kecap manis dipping sauce. However, the chicken lacked one important element: crunch. There was no batter on the skin, and so, although we would gobble this dish up within minutes, it didn't quite match up to what we expect from a fried chicken.
5/F, the L. Place, 139 Queen's Road Central, Central, 2577 9981
Lily & Bloom, Chef Billy Otis
Chef Otis went hard-core 'dirty South' with this heart attack on a plate of a fried chicken and Cheddar maple syrup waffle combo. When paired with coleslaw and fried bacon, I could almost hear the sirens of the ambulance in response to an impending cardiac arrest. The chicken was on the dry side and over battered, although we enjoyed the contrast between sweet and savoury with the honey mustard sauce. But overall it was a little too heavy-handed for our taste buds.
You can read more about Lily & Bloom here.
5/F and 6/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, 2810 6166
Viet Kitchen, Chef Peter Cuong Franklin
One of two individually plated chickens we had that night, Viet Kitchen's fried chicken came with a highly customisable array of sauces. There was a Sriracha mayo, a clear caramel black pepper sauce and a sweet soy cut with fish sauce. However, the bold flavours of the fish sauce and caramel chicken made all the sauces obsolete. We loved the sweet, chewy garlic, which was a great complement to the juicy chicken.
You can read more about Viet Kitchen here.
G/F, Nexxus Building, 41 Connaught Road Central, Central, 2806 2068
Jinjuu, Chef Sang Hyun Ko
Just like Momojein's Korean fried chicken, Jinjuu's rendition was fried as a whole chicken and then divided up before serving. The Australian free-range chicken was a monster of a chicken, and the giant bird arrived with kimchi-spiked coleslaw and grilled corn kernels. The well-seasoned batter had no yeast in order to retain total crispiness, and the whole bird took only 15 minutes to cook in a pressure fryer. The meat was tender and juicy but lacked flavour.
You can read more about Jinjuu here.
U/G, California Tower, 32 D'Aguilar Street, LKF, Central, 3755 4868
Boomshack, Chef Austin Fry
Last but not least came fried chicken morsels brined in pickle juice and accompanied by fried basil, kale and pickles. However, the dish was more bust than boom, as we found the chicken rather dry and tasteless. We did, however, enjoy the fried pickle.
You can read more about Boomshack here.
Shop B, G/F, Wo On Building, 8-12 Wo On Lane, LKF, Central, 2660 5977
And the WINNER is...
Viet Kitchen stole our hearts and minds for the best "Eastern" fried chicken
Okra won our unanimous votes for the best "Western" fried chicken