429 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Also: 233 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 481 134 291
Melbourne is crazy about fried chicken at the moment. So when Taiwanese franchise Hot Star Taiwanese Fried Chicken opened up its first Australian store on Swanston Street last year, I was not surprised to find ridiculously long queues snaking all the way back to Little Bourke Street.
I love fried chicken but because I don’t have the patience to wait in line for cooked-to-order crumbed chicken breasts, I decided to hold off until the queues were less crazy. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for a very long time. However, an unexpected blessing came in the form of a second store on Elizabeth Street a few months later. And lo and behold, it happened to be right next door to the Gong Cha store. Fried chicken and green tea with pearls and milk foam? Um hello, winning!
The first Hot Star store was founded by Wang Qing Long back in 1992. It soon became popular with Taipei’s Shilin Night Market crowd and before long, Hot Star stores exploded all over Asia. The price of a single piece of chicken in Melbourne costs $8; that sounds reasonable if you take into account that Melbourne is, after all, an expensive place to live in and the chicken they use is locally sourced. In Hong Kong, the chicken may be a lot cheaper (approximately AUD$3) but I’ve heard that the meat isn’t as nice.
So each chicken breast piece is 30 centimetres long and weigh 250 grams. Due to its size, I can understand why a few people would be worried about the thought of using genetically modified birds. However, I later found out that all they do is take one chicken breast, cut it in half lengthwise (but not all the way through), before laying it flat to make one big chicken breast. They also leave the breastbone hanging in there to ensure that the meat retains its flavour.
Hot Star tagline is that their chicken is ‘as big as your head’ and if this photo of Pete holding a Hot Star chicken is anything to go by, they’re spot-on.
In fact, Pete, Hasan and I had to split a chicken between the three of us – that’s how huge it was. And trust me, us three are big eaters.
Okay, fine, the three of us did end up grabbing other stuff to eat that night (the chicken was just a starter) so it’s not like one chicken could feed three people.
That said, Michael and Tara were able to share a chicken and be full enough to not want proper food afterwards.
So how did they taste? The one I managed to try was the original flavoured chicken; it was coated in a lovely salt and pepper mix that was, I dare say, almost as addictive as crack. It was also flavoursome enough to not warrant extra sauces or seasonings, and the meat was beautifully juicy.
I was back the following night with Dave. We had just finished an unsatisfying meal elsewhere so we needed to grab some chicken to fill the rest of the empty space in our stomach. We split a spicy chicken which, as its name suggests, was spicy thanks to the liberal dose of chilly seasoning. While it was nice and peppery (and obviously HOT), I have to say I preferred the original one.
My opinion might change once I try the tangy plum salt one though.