It’s not like Singapore has ever gone off eating fried stuff, but… on the way to the MRT and Serangoon, I find out that Four Fingers is setting up at Causeway Point. This means there must be more than 10 places in one mall where I can have fried chicken of some sort.
Which makes me wonder if we’re having too much of a good thing, especially when considering Fried Chicken Master (炸雞大獅). The Taiwanese concept has landed in NEX, clearly bent on representing one of the most popular dishes in the Taiwanese night market pantheon. But do we really need this? Does Fried Chicken Master (hereafter FCM) have something new to say about this street food staple?
Initial impressions are favourable. I’m not usually pleased at black, varnished metal grating and narrow counter seats, but it’s such a departure from the usual look of a Taiwanese fried chicken stall, so it can count as progress. A slightly Doge-style mural covers the back wall, starring the lion mascot.
As everything is fried to order here, orders take a while to come. First up are fries, which are brilliant – the skin spalling into little crispy flakes, generously seasoned with peppery, slightly spicy powder. Bite through that crust and there’s a puff of steam, followed by potatoes – soft, still fluffy and crumbly. If they do sides like this, then…
… the next thing to be served does meet high expectations too, at first anyway. Little chunks of thigh are lightly – very lightly – floured before frying, and come out wafting five-spice and caramel. Several pieces squirt juice in the mouth. These need to be eaten quickly, though; glistening with oil fresh from the fryer, they quickly start to ooze the stuff as they cool. Glorious for eating in, a probable disaster for takeaway.
The star of the show is the bone-in chicken breast, quite different from run-of-the-mill Taiwanese fried chicken. Batter instead of breading; the seasoning powder (paprika and plum) mixed in with the coating instead of sprinkled on top. It complements, rather than drowning out, the mild flavour of the chicken breast. But because the sweet potato flour batter is laid thickly on, the inside of the batter quickly gets chewy. I like it, but mileage may vary.
So does this transplant work? I come out drinking the last of their (very nice) blackcurrant juice and still a little uncertain. Their chicken is certainly different in treatment, but – maybe because of air-conditioning – deteriorates really quickly. So it’s a good move they fry everything to order, but maybe that’s a lesson to be learned too. Sometimes comfort comes at a price.
Fried Chicken Master
21 Serangoon Central
Singapore 556083 (map)
Opening hours: Daily, 10.30am – 10pm