In case, you don’t know what “belacan” is – it is fermented and dried shrimp paste.
Before this recipe came into being, I had done lots of experiments. First, I had to evaluate other people’s Belacan Chicken. Found some so oily that I could not eat anything else the whole day – just the thought of the oil bursting out from the chicken wings nauseated me. Then there were some that were so salty, I would have used pieces of that chicken to salt my curries! Some too smelly, some wings uncooked, some overly browned, some absolutely no flavor of belacan. I gave up after trying for a few weeks.
Then I started researching. I asked Chinese friends, Peranakan friends, Malay friends, Indian friends and even Filipinos. My field of belacan expanded – so many stories and so many ways of making Belacan Chicken. I had to choose one method that would work for me. In case, you are wondering what Belacan Chicken is, it is chicken pieces marinated in shrimp paste and other ingredients, dipped in batter and then deep fried. You have to soak it long enough so that the marinade seeps through every molecule of the chicken and make it truly fragrant. The Belacan Chicken should be crunchy on the skin and burst with flavors in your mouth!! And I managed to do that. And chances are when an Asian eats a Belacan Chicken, all other colonels’ fried chicken will be forgotten! The smell of Belacan Chicken being fried will make your neighbors hungry. Some marinate the chicken pieces in belacan and some coat the chicken with belacan infused batter. And while some use belacan powder, I use belacan paste.
Some of you may not know that there are many types of shrimp paste in the market. Belacan is made from small salted shrimps that have been allowed to ferment in the sun until intensely pungent. The mixture is then mashed and dried. Some are semi-dried. It may smell unappealing to many but taste divine when cooked. In the hands of a good cook, belacan can work wonders, and a bit of belacan with ground chillies and a touch of calamansi makes a meal near sublime. Take note that belacan must always be cooked before being eaten.
And so here is my version of the recipe!
- 50 g ginger, sliced
- 50 g garlic cloves
- 10 chillie padies (bird’s eyes chillies)
- 50 g Thai shrimp paste
- 1300 g chicken wings (about 10 chicken wings)
- 15 g sugar
- salt to taste
- 10 ml Chinese sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 30 g cornflour
- 20 g rice flour
- oil for deep frying
- 1.Pound the ginger, garlic, chillies and shrimp paste until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl. You can use a food processor if you want to.
- 2.Add in the rest of the ingredients and combine well and leave the chicken pieces to marinate for 3 hrs or overnight.
- 3.Heat oil for deep frying and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown. The oil must not be too hot as the chicken pieces will turn golden brown but the inside may not be cooked. The right temperature for deep frying is 160°C to 190°C.
- 4.Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot if possible.
- If you want to grill belacan at home without making the whole house stink like a belacan factory, wrap the size of belacan in aluminum foil and then grill in the oven for about 5-8 minutes, turning the package a couple of times in between. Alternatively, you can put the aluminum package directly on the gas stove, but keep turning the package. Do remember that belacan is not something you will use in large amounts………a bit goes a long way!