photo: Thai-style fried chicken dish

The earliest documented recipe for American fried chicken was published in a British cookbook in 1747. Consumers associated fried chicken with South America as the locals there were the first to introduce this dish in the 18th century1.

The traditional American fried chicken is still widely consumed till today. Tsung Ting Wang, a renowned chef from New York City, invented his famous General Tso’s chicken, a Chinese-influenced dish with a unique twist from the classic American fried chicken. The dish created comprises of sweet and saucy chicken nuggets.

In Asia, there are various delicious fried chicken dishes available. We walk through some of the recipes. Notable differences between an American and Asian fried chicken dish is the incorporation of various spices, herbs, marinades, and accompanying dips3.

Singapore’s Har Cheong Gai
Har cheong gai, also known as prawn paste chicken, is a popular Singaporean dish. It involves marinating chicken parts in prawn paste before deep frying them to achieve a crunchy exterior. Prawn paste is made from fermented silver shrimps that are commonly used in Southeast Asian dishes. It has a distinctive aroma and is often used in a small amount as seasonings and marinades4Har cheong gai is regarded as the epitome of fried chicken wings in Singapore due to its plump, juicy interior and thin yet crispy exterior5. It is a common dish usually eaten at zi char stalls where the chefs provide a variety of comforting Chinese home-style dishes for communal dining. Such stalls are often found in local eateries and coffee shops6.

Indonesia’s Ayam Penyet
Ayam penyet is an Indonesian dish that consists of “smashed” fried chicken, served with rice, sambal (spicy chilli dip), cucumbers, fried tofu(beancurd), and tempeh (soybean cake). The chicken is flattened with a pestle or tenderizer for a soft texture7. The spicy sambal is made with a mixture of chilli, anchovies, tomatoes, onions, garlic, belacan, assam,and lime juice to produce a paste8. Ayam penyet dishes are popular across Asia and have resulted in many franchising opportunities throughout the region8.

Taiwan’s Ji Pai
Taiwanese ji pai are large pieces of pounded fried chicken breast fillets. They are a popular street food snack at Taiwanese night markets9. The marinade is a mixture of sugar, soy sauce, garlic, rice wine, and spices. The batter is a coat of beaten eggs and flour or sweet potato starch, resulting in crispy exterior after frying. The ji pai is seasoned again before serving piping hot10. Due to the popularity of Taiwanese snacks, Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken, a famous chain in Taiwan, expanded its operations to countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Canada and the United States11.

Thailand’s Gai Tod
Gai tod is Thailand’s version of fried chicken that is sold across all street vendors in Thailand. It is served with steamed or sticky rice to balance out gai tod’s bold flavors. The chicken gets its intense flavors from its marinade of coriander seeds, fish sauce, cilantro, cumin, white pepper, shallots, garlic, and coconut milk. It is best served with a garnish of Thai basil and sweet chili sauce12.


1. First We Feast (2016). An Illustrated History of Fried Chicken in America [Online] Available at: http://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/04/fried-chicken-illustrated-history
2.  Smithsonian Magazine (2016). A Brief History of General Tso’s Chicken [Online] Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/general-tsos-chicken-got-its-start-fine-dining-180956795/
3. Chicago Tribune (2013). Marinades and sauces transform fried chicken [Online] Available at: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-10/features/sc-food-0405-asian-fried-chicken-20130410_1_chicken-kimchi-chronicles-harland-sanders
4. Foodelicacy (2016). Prawn Paste Chicken A.K.A Har Cheong Gai (虾酱鸡[Online] Available at: http://foodelicacy.com/prawn-paste-chicken/
5. ieatishootipost (2014). Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai) Recipe: The Zi Char Version [Online] Available at: http://ieatishootipost.sg/prawn-paste-chicken-har-cheong-gai-recipe-the-cze-char-version/
6. Ladyironchef (2016) A GUIDE TO ZI CHAR – 21 POPULAR ZI CHAR DISHES EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT [Online] Available at: http://www.ladyironchef.com/2016/05/zi-char-guide/#more-84037
7. Honeycombers (2016). BEST AYAM PENYET IN SINGAPORE: RESTAURANTS AND STALLS THAT SERVE THE INDONESIAN SMASHED FRIED CHICKEN WITH RICE DISH [Online] Available at: http://thehoneycombers.com/singapore/best-ayam-penyet-in-singapore-restaurants-and-stalls-that-serve-the-indonesian-smashed-fried-chicken-with-rice-dish/
8. The Best Ayam Penyet In Brunei (2013). HISTORY AYAM PENYET [Online] Available at: http://zaeeem218.blogspot.sg/2013/11/history-ayam-penyet.html
9.  Tara’s Multicultural Table (2016). JI PAI (TAIWANESE FRIED CHICKEN STEAK) [Online] Available at: http://tarasmulticulturaltable.com/ji-pai-taiwanese-fried-chicken-steak/
10.  BootsnAll (2016). Eat Your Way Around Taiwan [Online] Available at: http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/13-06/food-in-taiwan.html
11. HotStar (2017). Store [Online] Available at: http://www.hotstar.com.tw/EN/Retail/ugC_Retail.asp#Pagecontent
12. Paste Magazine (2015). 5 Asian Fried Chicken Styles That Give The South a Run for Its Money [Online] Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/07/5-asian-fried-chicken-styles-that-give-the-south-a.html