Notes: The bone-in chicken for this recipe is hacked into pieces to allow for quick frying. To prepare the chicken pieces, first follow the Serious Eats method for breaking down a whole chicken for 8 pieces. Separate wings from legs. Follow instructions in step 1 for the final breakdown. Har cheong is Chinese fermented shrimp paste. It can be found in your local Asian market. I used Lee Kum Kee shrimp paste sauce, which is slightly different than the blocks of belachan, as it's aroma is much more pungent and has the consistency of pudding. Chili sauce can also be purchased in your local Asian market.
- 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds
- 1/4 cup har cheong (see note)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 cup cornstarch (see note)
- 2 quarts peanut oil
- Chili sauce to serve on the side (see note)
Break chicken down into the following portions: each leg cut into 2 pieces, each thigh cut into 3 pieces, wing tip separated from wing drumette, each bone-in breast cut into 4 pieces total (see note).
Whisk har cheong, 1/4 cup water, sugar, and oyster sauce until smooth. Add chicken pieces to bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to evenly marinate chicken.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat to 375°F. Adjust heat to maintain temperature.
Working in batches, remove chicken pieces from shrimp paste mixture and pat lightly with paper towels. Dredge well in cornstarch. Cook until chicken is golden and cooked through (160°F for white meat, 165°F for dark), 4 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel lined plate.
Heat oil to 375°F. Working in batches, return chicken to oil and cook until deep golden, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and serve immediately with chili sauce on the side.
Dutch oven or wok