SHILIN is Taipei’s famous night market and has a large food stall area popular for its variety of dishes – you can get anything from frogs’ eggs and oyster omelettes to beef noodle soup and stinky tofu.
The night market is home to the famous Hot Star chicken outlet which serves Taipei’s popular snack food – fried chicken steak (also known as XXL chicken). It’s the Taiwanese answer to the chicken schnitzel (or, dare I say it, KFC). Basically it’s a huge flattened piece of chicken breast (which is as big as your hand), that is battered and crumbed in secret herb and spices and then deep fried. Out of the oil and dusted with more seasoning and chilli it’s then delivered in a paper bag ready for you to eat while you wander around the market staring at the other treats you want to devour. You can get it for about $2. It’s criminally good and so popular is it in Taiwan that you can buy the batter mix at any supermarket to make it yourself (and you can also find the mix in many Aussie Asian grocers). I’ve had the Big Star chicken back in Taipei’s Shilin (see pic) and loved it.
Enter Shihlin Taiwanese Street Snacks – and yes, it specialises in Taiwan’s tasty heart-attack inducing XXL chicken treat. Shihlin (notice the spelling), is a franchise that originated in Singapore and has spread to Australia with three outlets in Sydney. Its Haymarket outlet is at the end of the underpass that goes under Broadway from the Central Railway Tunnel and out to the Broadway/George Street corner. It’s set up for take-away (although there are a few stools and a bench along the wall) and heavily promotes its XXL fried chicken.
If XXL chicken isn’t your fancy then unfortunately there is not too much more on the menu – oyster mee sua (which is a Taiwanese noodle soup for $7.50), crispy floss egg crepe ($6.50), seafood tempura ($6.50) and sweet plum potato fries ($5).
How could one not resist the XXL chicken especially if you have had it at Taipei’s Shilin? I decided to get my slab of chicken in a “Happy Rice Box” which the included rice and tofu ($9.50). On its own the XXL chicken would be $7.50.
I waited 17 minutes for my chicken pack to be delivered (my visit to Medicare the following day was only a 14 minute wait). That’s a long time to be waiting around for what is typically a fast food.
So, what was in the box? there was a large flattened piece of chicken, the coating was crunch and flavoursome and the moisture in the chicken was sealed in. The dusting of spices was typical of the Taiwan experience. The tofu and rice added nothing but bulk (fine if you are hungry)
Was it worth the wait though? It did bring back those memories of Shilin market but it isn’t something that I would go back to in a hurry unless I got that rare fried chicken craving but it’s worth trying if you aren’t heading off to Taipei any time soon.
The verdict: Great to see a Taiwanese favourite being brought to Sydney which will probably appeal to Taiwanese expats. Although service is friendly, the long wait time needs to be improved.
What: Shihlin Taiwanese Street Snacks, Shop 4, 827 George Street (Ultimo Pedestrian Tunnel), Haymarket NSW 2000 Australia.
Ate there: 30 October 2013.