A fried chicken cutlet? Yes, please! But how about an Asian-style one, one that originated around where I was born? I cannot recall eating this Hainanese chicken chop when I was growing up in Malaysia or Singapore but it’s quite a well known local dish with a western influence. Other Hainanese dishes that have western origins include Hainanese mushroom soup, lamb stew, macaroni pie, and chicken pie – I like to call it all historical or traditional fusion! I don’t know much about the original Hainan cuisine from the island in China but I can already see that their most famous dish, Hainanese chicken rice, must have derived from Wenchang chicken.
But how did so much of the Hainanese cuisine in the Straits become so influenced by Europe? The story goes that during the British colonial era, there were many Hainanese cooks who ended up fusing the two cuisines into this modern one. Apart from combining with British cuisine, I even found a reference to Hainanese-Russian cuisine! From what I understand, other Hainanese dishes incorporate Nyonya ingredients and preparations too, bringing the two Asian cuisines together.
The chicken chop is one such Hainanese-western dish and is a fried chicken cutlet topped with a thick Asian style gravy. I love how the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce are included in the sauce; they must surely be the Western ingredients! If you’re more partial to pork, you can make it with that too – that variant is also very common in Malaysia and Singapore. I’d recommend serving this with white rice or increasing the potato count to make it a meal in one.
6 chicken thigh fillets
plain flour and salt
sunflower oil for frying
3-4 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp sunflower oil
For the sauce:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
350 mL vegetable stock or water
3 tbsps ketchup
2 tbsps oyster sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tomatoes or a handful or two of cherry tomatoes
a handful of frozen peas
salt and white pepper
2 tsps cornstarch/cornflour
Scrub and peel your potatoes and slice them into wedges. Either fry them or roast them – I did the latter. To roast, heat your oven to 200 Celsius. Place all your wedges into a resealable bag, pour in the tablespoon of oil and a few pinches of salt. Seal the bag and toss together to coat the wedges evenly. Pour out the wedges onto a lined baking tray and arrange into a single layer. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Flip about halfway through cooking.
Set out three shallow bowls to prep your chicken. In one, add flour and season it well with salt. In another, beat your two eggs, Finally, in the third, pour in the dry breadcrumbs. Pound the chicken thighs flat – you want them of even thickness. Dredge in the flour, then dip in the egg, and finally coat thoroughly in breadcrumbs, pressing them on to stick.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add sunflower oil to a depth of about 1 cm. When oil is hot, shallow fry your chicken pieces. The oil should bubble around the chicken. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until the cutlet is brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Time to make the sauce. Slice the onion thinly from top to bottom. Cut your tomatoes into wedges or cut your cherry tomatoes in half.
Either clean out your original frying pan or use another one. Heat it over medium heat and add the oil followed by the sliced onion shortly after. When the onion has softened (after frying for a couple minutes), add the minced garlic and continue frying for another minute. Pour in the stock/water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to bring it all to a simmer.
Add the sauces (oyster, ketchup and Worcestershire) and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and peas and stir through. Let simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Create a cornstarch slurry with the cornstarch and cold water and use to thicken the mixture.
Slice the chicken into strips and arrange on a platter with the potato wedges. Pour over the sauce and serve immediately.