How many ways are there to fry chicken?
More ways than there are to skin a . . . c-a-t. (Shhhh! Don't let the kitties hear us.)
Every culture has its own version of fried chicken. That is the chicken's destiny. That is why it crosses the road.
The recipe I use for har cheong gai is from All About Ci Char Cuisine. There're only four ingredients in the marinade: prawns fermented to a grey goo, oysters fermented to a brown goo, sugar and water. It's simple but that's how it should be. Are you tempted to add some ginger juice and good ol' Shaoxing wine to the simple marinade? Well, don't.
You might think wine and ginger would reduce 虾酱's fishy, pungent smell but they don't. I know 'cause I've tried. Without wine and ginger juice, 虾酱 undergoes a transformation when it's fried. Instead of the smell of dead rats – there's no better way to describe it – there's a distinct aroma and umaminess that's very similar to grilled dried squid. With wine and ginger juice added, the fried chicken would taste of raw 虾酱. The pungency is muted compared to uncooked 虾酱 but it's still pretty nasty. The chicken would taste nothing like dried squid that's been grilled. Sometimes, less is more.
The recipe is here. Give it a try if you like har cheong gai. Bye-bye.