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Har cheong gai (虾酱鸡) or literally translated as prawn paste chicken is a very popular fried chicken dish in Singapore and you can easily find this dish on the menu of most zi char stalls (煮炒, literally translated as cook and fry). Zi char stalls are local eateries that serve a wide range of Chinese or local starters, mains, seafood, meat, vegetables, soups, rice and noodles, as well as the cheaper versions of some restaurant specialties. In this recipe, I’m using the air fryer to make prawn paste chicken instead of deep frying it in a pot of oil, making it a healthy version of the dish.
Har cheong gai is made mainly with fermented prawn paste (虾酱), or shrimp sauce. This prawn paste is different from the one used for making rojak, another delicious local salad dish. This Chinese style type of paste can be bought from the supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. It has a rather pungent smell and a greyish pink colour. Use this smooth paste to marinate the chicken overnight and the result is a delicious and uniquely flavoured dish of fried chicken.
Tips on cooking Air Fryer Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai)
- The fermented prawn paste (虾酱) is quite salty so there is no need to add additional salt to the marinade. And also refrain from adding too much of the paste to marinate the chicken.
- The corn starch is meant to coat the chicken for the crispiest skin. You can use a combination of plain flour with corn starch or you can use only corn starch, like in this recipe. Take note that corn starch is a fine white powdery looking flour and is different from corn flour which is yellowish in colour. However in Asia or in Singapore, it’s not uncommon that corn starch is sometimes referred to as corn flour.
- Coat the marinated chicken with a thin layer of corn starch, then a thin layer of cooking oil. This is so that the corn starch will form a nice layer of crispy crust around the chicken, otherwise the corn starch will taste ‘flour-ish’ when cooked.
- You will commonly find zi char stalls using chicken wings to make this dish. In this recipe, I used chicken thighs as I like the meatiness of this part.
- I marinated the chicken with prawn paste and chill in the fridge overnight. This is ideal if you are cooking it for lunch or dinner the next day.
- Before air frying, take note to pre-heat the air fryer at the cooking temperature for at least 3 minutes for optimal air frying results.
- I air fried at 180 degree Celsius / 356 degree Fahrenheit for a total of 15 minutes. In between the air frying, flip the chicken halfway at least once or twice to ensure even cooking.
- Cooked chicken should reach an internal temperature of at least 74 degree Celsius / 165 degree Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer and poke it into the thickest part of the meat to measure.
- If you do not have an air fryer, you can of course deep fry this over the stove.
Watch how to cook Air Fryer Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai) on YouTube
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Air Fryer Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai 虾酱鸡)
- Marinate 900 g chicken thighs with 1.5 tbsp shrimp paste and 2 tbsp sesame oil. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight.900 g chicken thighs, 1.5 tbsp shrimp paste, 2 tbsp sesame oil
- When ready to air fry, remove the chicken from the fridge 1 hour before cooking and let it come to room temperature. Coat marinated chicken with thin layer of corn starch evenly.corn starch
- Pre-heat air fryer at 180C / 356F for at least 3 minutes. Place chicken in the air fryer basket leaving some space between each piece.Brush a thin layer of cooking oil all over the coated chicken pieces.cooking oil
- Air fry at at 180C / 356F for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken halfway during air frying at least once or twice (every 5-7 minutes) to ensure even cooking.
- Test the chicken with a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be at least 74C / 165F. Remove the chicken from the air fryer and serve warm with chilli sauce.
If deep frying over the stove
- If you do not use an air fryer, you can deep fry the coated chicken in a pot of oil over medium high heat. Simply heat a pot of oil, enough to cover a few pieces of chicken, over medium high heat. Test the oil readiness by dipping in a pair of metal or wooden chopsticks, if the oil sizzles around the chopsticks, the oil is ready for deep frying. Deep fry a few pieces of chicken at a time. The ideal temperature of oil for deep frying should be between 149-177C / 300-350F,Fry each piece for about 14-15 minutes, turning each piece about half way, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 74C / 165F.
This recipe is shared on Fiesta Friday.