Every major food culture has its own form of fried chicken wings. For us, it is har cheong gai, and here is where to get the best ones in Singapore.
Har cheong gai means “prawn paste chicken” in Cantonese, which gives away how the wings are made. The meat is marinated with fermented prawn paste and other ingredients like Chinese rice wine and sesame oil, then battered and deep-fried. Done well, they are fragrant, crispy, juicy, and fantastically savoury – the perfect accompaniment to dinner and drinks.
In Singapore, the dish is most commonly found at tze char restaurants such as Ban Leong Wah Hoe and Bee Kia, where diners order it together with chilli crab and hor fun. It also rivals the signatures of eateries including Whampoa Keng Fish Head Steamboat and Holland Village XO Fish Head Bee Hoon. Then there is No.5 Emerald Hill, which takes har cheong gai out of its spiritual home and turns it into a bar snack but feels so natural alongside dirty martinis. Find out more about where to get the best versions of this morish dish below.
Where to find the best har cheong gai in Singapore
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While har cheong gai is just one of many dishes at a tze char restaurant, Ah Tan Wings makes it their sole priority. The hawker stall is the eponymous business of siblings Tan Wee Yang and Tan Yu Yan, who spent over a year coming up with over 800 variations before landing on a final recipe. The dish comes with both equal amounts of wings and drumlets, or part of a bigger meal with rice, egg, and tangy chilli.
(Image credit: Ah Tan Wings / Facebook)
Ban Leong Wah Hoe was founded in 1986 by Teh Chor Joo. It was initially an economic rice stall before selling tze char and grew successful enough to take over the entire coffee shop. Besides the signature chilli and black pepper crabs, the har cheong gai is extremely popular, which boasts a shatteringly crisp exterior and tender meat. If you can’t make it out to Casuarina, Ban Leong Wah Hoe also runs Har Cheong Guy, a takeaway booth at Plaza Singapura.
(Image credit: Ban Leong Wah Hoe Sea-food Restaurant / Facebook)
Bee Kia is another example of a tze char business doing the staples well and without frills. The stall’s calling cards are the beef hor fun and har cheong gai, whose savoury aroma announces itself before the dish hits the table. The chicken is generously battered, allowing for crunchy, golden-brown bits to break off like tenkasu.
(Image credit: Bee Kia Seafood Restaurant / Facebook)
Holland Village XO Fish Head Bee Hoon became renowned for its fish soup while at Holland Drive, and continues to maintain the standard at its new home in Dover. The har cheong gai is also worthy of a visit, combining a delicately crispy skin with a juicy interior. Other popular dishes include the san lao hor fun, butter prawn, and pork rib deluxe.
(Image credit: @jocielee / Instagram)
For a change of pace, head to No.5 Emerald Hill for your har cheong gai fix. The cocktail bar along Orchard Road has made the dish one of its most popular bar snacks, with a crunchy, umami-laden profile that rivals the best from tze char stalls. A Dirty Martini alongside doesn’t hurt, either.
(Image credit: 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar / Facebook)
Whampoa Keng started out in 1998 as a hawker stall selling fish head steamboats, eventually growing into a restaurant chain that now counts har cheong gai as one of its icons. The chicken is well-marinated and delightfully funky, backed by an airily crisp batter. Other popular items include the braised abalone head and red grouper.
(Image credit: WhampoaKeng / Facebook)
(Hero and feature image credit: 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar/Facebook)
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