Where to get Hong Kong’s best fast-food fried chicken – and the worst

We scoured the city’s fast-food outlets to find the most crispy, juicy and delicious fried chicken

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 6:03pm

There aren’t many meat eaters who dislike fried chicken. It’s not something they would consume every day, but give them the chance to eat it and few would say no; when I told friends and colleagues about the plan to do a tasting of fast-food fried chicken, many of them were eager to help out.

In the end, though, I went with only one colleague, Post arts editor Kevin Kwong. Before our day-long tasting, we set out the criteria for good fried chicken. We agreed that although the chicken is deep-fried, it shouldn’t be too oily. The skin should be crisp and the meat should be moist. With the best fried chicken, you’ll want to continue to eat it, even if you’re full.

By necessity, we omitted any shops specialising in Korean fried chicken – there are just too many of them. We also couldn’t include the fried chicken I eat at most frequently – Popeye’s – because the only branch in Hong Kong is in the restricted area of Chek Lap Kok airport. In the end, we tried five, ranging from Filipino and Taiwanese chains, to places better known for their burgers.

#1

Jollibee

This is an extremely popular chain in the Philippines, and also has branches in China, the US, Canada, Singapore, and several countries in the Middle East. The chain has four branches in Hong Kong.

It wasn’t clear from the sign that single pieces are available: the menu lists combinations, with starchy offerings such as Jolly spaghetti, fiesta noodles, fries, or rice. We ended up asking a manager, who told us that we could buy just chicken. Single pieces (thighs or drumsticks) cost HK$17, and come with a small cup of gravy, which we didn’t taste.

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This was by far our favourite of the day. We each had a thigh, and the coating was a bit thick, but it was crunchy, flavourful and not oily. The chicken was served piping hot and the meat was moist, tender, and not too salty. The thigh came with the back attached, which means you get a bite of chicken tail, as well as the “oyster” – the small nugget of meat that comes nestled in the lower back of the bird.

(Leg or thigh, HK$17 per piece)

Eurotrade Centre, 13 Connaught Road Central, tel: 2522 7553

#2

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is a popular choice at night markets in Taiwan. Some places – including Taiwanese chain, Hot-Star – offer different chicken parts – including legs, wings and nuggets. But “large fried chicken” is different: it’s the boneless breast meat, pounded thin before it’s breaded and fried. So far, so ordinary. What sets it apart is that instead of being cut into manageable pieces, large fried chicken is served whole, the argument being that if it’s cut up, the meat will be less juicy.

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Hot-Star double-fries its chicken; the glass-fronted kitchen shows an array of precooked meat. After the customer places the order, the chicken is fried again to heat it and crisp the crust, before it’s dusted with a mix of white pepper, five-spice and other seasonings.

I usually dislike chicken breast, but when served like this, it’s delicious (at least when fresh; leftovers eaten the next day were as dry as you’d expect white meat to be). We ordered “the original” (the other option was “hot”) and the seasoning was mildly spicy, while the coating was delicately crunchy.

(Large fried chicken – hot or original, HK$32 per piece)

Mercantile House, 8 O’Brien Road, Wan Chai, tel: 5989 3955, plus 15 other branches

#3

The Roundhouse – Chicken + Beer

This was the most upmarket of all the places we tried, and was the only place where we could also get a beer, if we chose (although we declined). It was also the only place where the food was brought to us by a waitress, rather than being self-service. The food also came garnished, with a hush puppy (fried cornmeal) and pickled, very spicy vegetables.

The chicken could have been blotted better: there was a puddle of oil underneath the pieces. My first bite wasn’t promising – although the skin was crunchy, the thigh meat was stringy. But I took a bite from the other side of the bone, and the meat was much better – tender and well seasoned. The pickled vegetables did a good job of cleansing the palate.

(Chicken thighs, two pieces for HK$68. The menu also lists chicken tenderloins or boneless wings)

29 Amoy Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 3199

#4

McDonald’s

I visit the McDonald’s in Admiralty Centre about once every four months or so, because it’s convenient for a quick bite. But I’ve noticed that McDonald’s franchises can vary slightly in quality, and this branch on Connaught Road Central was disappointing. We took a few minutes to photograph the chicken wings (the only option other than chicken McNuggets), but that shouldn’t have made such a difference to the quality; the coating was less crisp than usual, and the meat was tepid. I like the coating, although it’s a bit salty – it has a mild spiciness that leaves the tongue tingling.

(Four wings, HK$20.60)

30-32 Connaught Road Central, tel: 2523 4310

#5

KFC

This was the most disappointing of the lot: very greasy, the skin wasn’t crunchy, the meat was dry and stringy – even though it was thigh, which is normally moist. Worse, all the flavour seemed to be in the skin; the meat was tasteless.

(One chicken thigh or leg – original recipe, HK$18.50)

1/F Unicorn Trade Centre, 127-131 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2537 7527