It’s funny how smells and memories work. There are so many stinky things in the world that I associate with deliciousness – durian, fish sauce, sauerkraut, blue cheese…all these smells make my mouth water and my tummy rumble, even though there are some who would turn their nose up in disgust. I guess it comes from growing up in Singapore. Once you start associating stinky with delicious at a very young age, you start getting very excited to try the weird and wonderful. And hey, if nothing else, it’s a great ice breaker at a party.
Fermented shrimp paste is one such favourite that really baffles my friends. This stuff hits your nostrils the moment the seal on the jar is open, and has a somewhat sour/salty aroma that is quite similar to fish sauce. But add that to chicken and the deep fryer? And you’ve got prawn paste chicken (had jeong gai), a local favourite that graces almost every special occasion, family gathering, and children’s birthday party.
Trust me, this stuff is freaking delicious.
What was previously a “outside food” to be bought, has now become a party favourite in my house, through the genius of my cool aunt, who got it from a friend, who got it from…oh who cares? IT’S AMAZING FRIED CHICKEN. Just, you know, make sure your home is well ventilated, and there’s no wet laundry hanging around.
If you’re still apprehensive about the fermented shrimp paste, it’s okay too. You can use the same method with miso loosened with a little water or stock, fermented bean curd mashed with some of its juices…whatever is salty enough to effectively quick-brine the wings for a delicious finish!
- 1 kg mid joint chicken wings
- 100g fermented shrimp paste*
- 4-6 tbsp of corn starch
- Oil, for deep frying
- Toss the chicken wings into the shrimp paste and leave for 1.5 hrs to marinate.
- Add corn starch to coat. I start with 4 tbsp and see whether I need more. I stop when I can start drawing clear lines in the coating with my fingers. Feel free to add more if you like a thicker crust, but the more the shrimp paste sticks to the chicken, and the saltier this gets.
- Deep fry till golden brown and delicious! If you need to deep fry in batches, these also keep warm in the oven. Just place on a rack in a single layer, in a 140C oven.
- *I use Lee Kum Kee fermented shrimp paste because it's what I grew up with, and it's what I know works. Feel free to try your favourite ones! Available at most Asian grocers.
Oh, and if you’re using something else to flavour the chicken, just remember: it’s very important that your “salty thing” is creamy enough on its own. Fish sauce won’t be a good idea by itself because by the time you have enough cornstarch to make a crust, it’s going to be so salty it’ll turn your face inside out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Do you have a favourite stinky food that your friends don’t understand? I’d love to hear all about it! Let me know in the comments below! =)