If you haven’t heard about Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken then you must be living under a rock – or in Far North Queensland. I do understand we are a little sheltered up here in our beautiful part of the world. Heck, the Mexican food fad that took over our southern states about 3 years ago hasn’t even reached us up in Cairns yet (and no Cactus Jacks doesn’t count). In fact I am pretty sure we are still in the midst of the frozen yogurt phase that is so, like, totally 2012. Being an avid reader of Gourmet Traveller and Delicious magazines thanks to my monthly subscriptions (friends and family know the way to my heart for birthday’s and Christmas) I like to think (hope) that I am pretty up to date on the food trends. Along with Mexican food there has been cupcakes, macarons, hot dogs, anything Vietnamese, dumplings, gelato, burgers, Korean food and god knows what else! But now it’s the Taiwanese’ turn with Hot Star Large Fried Chicken. A chicken franchise brought in by some savvy travellers which has taken the cities of Sydney and Melbourne by storm, one deep-fried chicken breast at a time.
People are lining up down the street for these Taiwanese street food inspired protein pockets. It’s pretty basic to say the least but at Hot Star Chicken they take a whole chicken breast on the bone and smash it flat, marinated it for 2 hours, coat it in tapioca flour and then deep fry it in Cottonseed Oil till it’s crunchy on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside. Having recently travelled to Sydney with my family Hot Star wasn’t really somewhere that I was hell-bent on seeking out but more hoping to stumble upon. It certainly didn’t take long to spot a small crowd of people (mostly young Asian’s) huddled on the street waiting for the latest batch of chicken to be deep-fried. Before I knew it my whole family with MS in tow was lining up to try Hot Star Large Fried Chicken.
It’s a CASH ONLY kind of gig and for a mere AU$7.90 a hit, it’s a pretty good deal, especially when it’s cooked to order – that way you know it’s fresh – freshly fried anyway. The guy at the counter asked if we wanted Original or Spicy to which MS and I decided that we wanted ‘spicy’. He gave us a small plastic bag and a ticket with a number and we stepped aside, laying in wait for our ‘afternoon snack’. We waited about 10 minutes until with expert precision the guy working the deep fryer began to pull each chicken breast from the bubbling hot cottonseed oil, bag them up and call the individuals numbers of the hungry chicken lovers waiting curb side. MS and I spotted a couple of breasts that were basted in some sticky brownish sauce and then coated in sesame seeds. We had no idea what they were (possibly the lemon chicken?) but we both wished we had gotten that one – the grass is always greener.
Additions of deep-fried mushrooms and sweet potato chips on the menu at Hot Star also rate very high on the culinary Richter scale according to various reports on social media and other online reviews. Those deep-fried goodies would have to wait till the next time I crossed paths with a Hot Star Chicken joint because I had to save room for dinner – even if this was classed as ‘research’.
A couple of minutes later the ‘spicy’ coating was sprinkled onto our piece and our number was called. The pictures of it in MS’ hand just doesn’t do it justice. This thing is seriously about a foot long and with the breast itself weighing on average 250 grams. MS and I shared one but I could have easily polished one-off on my own despite it’s size. I refrained because technically we had just eaten a late lunch including BBQ pork puns and Deep Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste. Seriously those things are the best damn sweets ever invented!!!
The Hot Star Large Fried Chicken is kind of like a big chicken schnitzel crossed with KFC I guess. It was tongue searing-ly hot having just been pulled from the deep fryer seconds before but a perfect way to warm you from the inside out on what was a ridiculously cold and windy afternoon in the city of Sydney. The spice was spicy but nothing major. Hey, if MS can eat it without many complaints then it’s definitely not very spicy – he is a total pussy when it comes to spice after all. The batter was thick and crunchy and although the whole thing was encased in a little paper bag it didn’t seem overly oily.
There’s really not a whole lot for me to say about it especially considering that Hot Star Large Fried Chicken has been blogged about and reviewed to death since it opened in Australia about six months ago by people far more in the know than me. At the end of the day although tasty, succulent and a sh*tload better than a 5 piece feed from KFC (much kinder on the wallet too), it’s really just a big deep-fried chicken breast. Typically, MS was more smitten with the $4 slice of greasy Meatlover’s pizza that he bought from the pizza place directly next door while we waited for our chicken. In his own words that was his ‘culinary highlight’ of our trip to Sydney. Ah such a typical male.
Hot Star Chicken
96 Liverpool St, Sydney NSW 2000
429 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
231 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Opening Hours: 11am – 11pm 7 days
It’s been a ridiculously long time between posts for this vixen. It turns out that life without a laptop/computer is pretty damn debilitating for me. I have had nothing but dramas with a Toshiba Ultrabook I bought less than two years ago (brand new) having the operating system ‘break down’ no less than three times and also the hard drive replaced once in that period. Many a file have I lost over this time because although I have the best of intentions to back files up, it’s just something that usually gets put on the back-burner for me. I do however usually save at least two copies of everything – one on my laptop and one on my hard drive but it really doesn’t matter because I get f**ked by technology one way or another (apparently portable hard drives don’t like to be dropped).
Finally, I’d had enough of my laptop failing me and tried for the 500th and final time to get it replaced under the extended warranty that I had purchased. The dude in JB HIFI proceeded to tell me that it was something that I was doing with it that was causing it to fail and they couldn’t replace it. With MS by my side I usually feel 10 feet tall but without him my eyes began to well up. I kept it together long enough to ask the guy to speak to the ‘big manager’ but make sure he takes my side when explaining the situation. Two minutes later he returns and tells me they are going to replace it with a product of equal or lesser value (that really could have saved 10 minutes of arguing). The two computer guys tried in vain to get me to consider an Apple – something I didn’t want to have a bar of. I DGAF how good Mac’s are nor do I want to approach them with my ‘non-PC’ brain on. I’m a PC for life kind of girl so save your breath. In the end I got some new ASUS Zenbook thingy with some Norton Antivirus to go with it. Now if I could just figure out how to use Windows 8 then life would be sweet.
So here I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon and recap all the wonderful and not so wonderful places that I have dined in the last, say 3 months. Firstly I think I will start with one of my most recent outings – Cafe China Express at the Marina. Having been there a few months now Cafe China Express has taken over from the long-standing, and probably too long, Boardwalk Cafe. A place that was once upon a time known for its huge cafe style meals and delicious Egg’s Benedict. I personally hadn’t returned since I received a particularly violent case of food poisoning there after consuming an Open Grilled Turkey Sandwich on my 23rd birthday about three years ago (haha just kidding, it was two). It turns out that the toilets at Rosse and Locke are few and far between, especially when you’re in a ‘hurry’. Big thumbs up for my birthday that year. FML.
Anyway, Cafe China Express was so carefully selected by my brothers beautiful girlfriend GH for her 20th birthday dinner last weekend, presumably because well they have pork buns and we all know that everyone loves pork buns. The fact that you pay and order at the counter is perfect for a large group because divvying up a bill can often be a painful experience, something I found recently whilst dining at an Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Pyrmont a couple of weeks ago with a couple of wines under my belt, or smoking hot pair of Wayne Cooper pants (in a size 6 might I add, awwww yeah!). Anyway so cunningly GH told my family – minus myself – that dinner was at 6.30pm when it fact it was at 7. My family is notorious for being at least 20 minutes late no matter how much warning they have and anyone who knows them knows this. Apparently leaving home with ample time to arrive at their given destination is far too difficult because my dad always finds it imperative that he walk the dog at the exact time they should be leaving home. Mum always blames dad for them being late and all you can do is shake your head and sigh. So you can imagine my delight when I arrived at Cafe China Express to find that my entire family already seated and waiting – apparently I was the late one. Whatever makes them feel better.
We all perused the menu whilst waiting for the birthday girl to arrive. Since it was a bit chilly outside I thought I would go for a noodle soup type dish to warm my insides. There was pork buns and dumplings to be shared as well. About 20 minutes later the whole party had arrived and after greetings and salutations were made and presents were opened we all went up to order. I chose the Fish Ball Soup (AU$11.90 for regular size) with an entrée of Har Gow or steamed prawn dumplings (3 for AU$7.90). Like me, my dad has a lot of trouble understanding people with certain accents. It’s nothing personal, maybe we are both hard of hearing – some would say ignorant – but even I sometimes have trouble understanding my Sri Lankan aunties when they talk too fast. After a 5 minute struggle to order dishes, my dad decided it would be better to point it all out instead. Upon returning to the table he claimed that he really had no idea what the bubbly Chinese girl behind the counter was saying and he thought she sounded like she was singing a song when she talked. Dad has such an eloquent way of describing things sometimes but he means it in the best possible way.
There was 12 or so people seated at the table and it took about 20 minutes for the meals to start arriving. My dumplings arrived somewhere in the middle, closely followed by my Fish Ball Soup. Most of the meals arrived a little scattered, and not in any kind of order.
I tasted a selection of the dishes around me including my younger brother’s Roasted Duck Laksa, which he managed to eat the majority of in between his constant scrolling through Facebook and Instagram despite my repeated requests for him to put his phone away, was delicious, creamy and extremely decadent.
Mum and Dad’s plate of Roasted Duck – tough and chewy although a very reasonable sized quarter serving for AU$9.90.
The majority of my family had ordered BBQ Pork Buns to share – except for me. According to my dad they were cold on the inside like they had been put in the microwave and barely heated through. That and they were more dough than anything else. How hard is it to serve a warm pork bun? My dumplings were also ridiculously doughy to the point where I was unsure if there was in fact any filling inside them. Dad and I debated whether or not they were made in-house, especially considering that Café China has about 3 other eateries in Cairns. In the end we concluded that they were pulled straight from a box in the freezer along with the pork buns.
My Fish Ball Soup was as I said earlier quite flavorless. The broth had very little depth to it and although the fish balls were nice, in that artificial kind of way, I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else, like my brother’s laksa.
Next to me mum and dad’s plate of Stir-fry Spinach in Garlic had arrived. A staple for them whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant. I shovelled some into my mouth with my chopsticks to be met with what I can only describe as ‘liquid hot magma’ style spinach. Holy crap they must have literally pulled that stuff straight out of a volcano it was that frigin hot! With tears welling up in my eyes and my taste buds burnt clean off it still tasted pretty good but there was lots of oil on it – presumably what caused my third degree burns (who needs taste buds anyway).
My sister, across from me, had ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. This arrived at the table no less than 30 long minutes after everyone else received their meals. It took that long that we actually thought they had forgotten since all we could see in the open kitchen were people washing up and doing non Chicken Teriyaki related jobs. I tried to do the right thing and wait for her meal to arrive before I started mine but it became beyond ridiculous and in the end my near flavorless soup was getting cold. When it finally did arrive we exchanged glances across the table to say ‘is that seriously it?’ I guess Chicken Teriyaki can’t really be too elaborate a dish but it was literally a piece of whole chicken breast thrown on a plate with some rice, a bit of tomato and kewpie mayonnaise. I wondered what the hell had taken them so long? Presumably because she had ordered a Japanese dish in a Chinese restaurant – a cardinal sin in my books and a sure-fire way to screw up your meal – or get food poisoning especially in a foreign country.
Our dinner at Cafe China Express at the Marina wasn’t particularly fantastic and certainly didn’t even come close to some of the fantastic Chinese dinners I have had in the last 12 months – to be fair most of those were actually in China. The service was great but I wouldn’t consider the place to be express (my sister wasn’t the only one who waited more than 20 minutes for her meal to arrive and the restaurant was barely a quarter full). It was all pretty cheap but more the cheap and nasty type of cheap not the ‘woo hoo we paid next to nothing’ exciting kind of cheap – although the birthday girls mum did score a free glass of red wine. The food itself was somewhat lacklustre and although there was a few yummy dishes amongst our table on the whole it all seemed pretty thrown together. Maybe that’s where the express part comes in…
Cafe China Express At The Marina
Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6887