Prawn Paste Chicken A.K.A Har Cheong Gai (虾酱鸡)

15 comments All Recipes, Chicken Recipes, Main Dishes
 Here’s the perfect recipe for making zi char style crispy prawn paste chicken (har cheong gai 虾酱鸡). Enjoy sinking your teeth into these deliciously flavoured, crispy, battered, deep-fried chicken wings.

Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy the occasional meal of deep-fried chicken? Granted, there will always be people on both sides of the fence, who will either cringe or grimace at first glimpse of anything with a shiny, oily sheen to it, or seek out the source, like bees to honey, when hit with wafts and whiffs of smoky, aromatic foods bubbling in hot oil in a deep fryer somewhere.

I’m in the latter camp. But I’d like to think that many of us, even the health conscious, for the most part, do indulge ourselves, and enjoy sinking our teeth into a deliciously flavoured, crispy battered piece of chicken.

Like this much loved Singaporean dish, deep-fried prawn paste chicken (har cheong gai).

This, for days when only fried chicken will do.


If you are unfamiliar with prawn paste (also often referred to as shrimp paste or shrimp sauce), this is a fine, delicate, light lilac-coloured paste made from fermented and dried silver shrimp, used widely in many regional cuisines, mainly that of Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Philippines.

It has a very distinct, most will say, very pungent, aroma. Prawn paste is often added in modest portions or dollops to seasonings and marinades for meats and seafood, as well as to flavour stir-fries and braising sauces.

Prawn_Paste_Chicken_7DO YOU KNOW? Prawn or shrimp paste is not to be confused with another kind of shrimp paste, belacan (in Malay).

Belacan is also made from fermented shrimps, which are sun-dried, and cut into fist-sized, solid, rectangular blocks, and often used when cooking curries and sauces.

In Singapore, there are those who favour specific brands of prawn pastes, often sold at your local wet markets, as these are said to have much more intense flavours.

And then, there’s the popular fine shrimp sauce made by Lee Kum Kee, which I tend to grab more of, as they are conveniently found in most supermarkets here. Personally, I’ve used both varieties, and both work very well for the prawn paste chicken recipes I’ve tried.

The recipe I’m sharing here is one of my favourites on zi char style prawn paste chicken, posted on (Dr Leslie Tay writes a very detailed and informative post, not only on aspects of the recipe, but also tips and techniques for deep frying to get that highly-sought after crispy wings, which I think is definitely worth reading here).


Prawn paste, when mixed with Chinese wine, sesame oil and seasonings, makes a robust, full-bodied marinade. (Just a note: I did have to add about 1 to 2 additional teaspoons of sugar to balance the saltiness of the prawn paste, so adjust accordingly to your tolerance for saltiness).

The batter is smooth, velvety, of the right consistency, coating the pieces evenly, and fries to a tender crisp. Depending on what’s available in my pantry, I’ve substituted all potato starch with all corn flour, or half-and-half corn flour with crispy flour.

I’ve found that using crispy flour makes a crispier batter, and wings stay crisp for longer, but if you can’t get your hands on crispy flour, corn flour will do just fine too.

I’ll definitely be experimenting with more recipes like this in future – for now, this is my go-to recipe, and is truly as close as it gets to ‘zi char’ style prawn paste chicken!


Prawn Paste Chicken a.k.a Har Cheong Gai (虾酱鸡)

Prawn Paste Chicken a.k.a Har Cheong Gai (虾酱鸡)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

The perfect recipe for making zi char style crispy prawn paste chicken (har cheong gai 虾酱鸡). (Source:


  • 1 kg chicken drumettes and wingettes
  • 3 tbsp shrimp sauce
  • 2 - 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp Chinese wine
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp MSG (optional), (I omit this entirely)

For the Batter:

  • 80 g plain flour
  • 80 g potato starch or corn flour
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine shrimp sauce, sugar, sesame oil, wine, and pepper. Add chicken pieces and mix till well coated with marinade.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix all the batter ingredients, and stir with a spoon or whisk, until smooth and free of lumps. Add this to the chicken in marinade, and stir until well combined. Cover with clingwrap, and set aside (refrigerated) for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, or up to 2 days.
  3. Fill a wok or frying pot (with a wide surface area), one-third full with cooking oil. Heat oil to 180 deg C. Fry the chicken pieces in batches, about 4 to 5 at a time (it's a good idea to fry like pieces together). After about half a minute, separate the pieces with wooden chopsticks, to prevent pieces sticking together. After about 1 minute, the temperature should have dropped to 160 deg C, if not lower the heat. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Repeat, until all pieces have been fried. Serve immediately, with freshly squeezed lime or calamansi juice, and sweet chilli sauce, on the side (optional).


  1. Hi Rosaline, I totally understand! Like you, I also like to keep things simple. But for this dish, it’s the combination of flours that makes the batter texture light and crispy. So, I’m afraid there’s no shortcut here if you’re after the tze-char texture of har cheong gai. Haha!

  2. Hello Celia,

    Thank you for the response, I noticed u used a variety of flour… To make my life easier… 😅 Can I just use Self-Raising flour for the batter?

  3. Hi, thank you so much for the recipe. My kids love it so much!

  4. Hi Rosaline, you asked really good questions. To be honest, I’m familiar with similar recipes but have not tried the oyster sauce version. In my humble opinion, my priority is taste over preparation. I think this prawn paste recipe is good without the oyster sauce, but the only way is to try 😁

  5. Hello Celia, I don’t usually cooks but my family like prawn paste chicken, and I’m trying to perfect it… But I’m rather confused with the difference version found.
    Some added Oyster sauce to the marinate & leave the batter last, for to coat it only before frying… But urs omits the oyster sauce, adds sesame oil n Chinese wine to the marinate as well as the batter.
    Which will have tastier results? Or same, but urs more convenient? 🤔

  6. Hi Fred, sorry to say but belacan is very different from this shrimp paste. The flavour and texture isn’t the same.

  7. I don’t think they sell this shrimp paste/sauce where I live. But they do sell belacan. Could I use belacan as a substitute or is the taste very different from shrimp paste/sauce?

  8. Hi Siew Leng, sorry to hear that. It looks like the link has been compromised, thank you for the alert! Basically, it’s a product carried by Kwang Cheong Thye called ‘Crispy Flour’, which you can get at their main store. But you can do without it, and use corn flour in its place.

  9. Haven’t tried the recipe because I don’t know what your crispy flour is. Is it cornflour?

  10. Hi Pam, I’ve used an air fryer for lightly flour-coated or wings dusted lightly and those turned out well, but not with a thick batter coating like these prawn paste wings. I’d have to say it’s worth a try! If you do, could you kindly share how it turns out? I definitely like the air fryer for it’s healthier cooking!

  11. Hi celia, can I air fry the wings with this recipe? Keep all the same except the deep frying part.

  12. Hi Doris, my apologies for this late reply! Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m so glad to hear how well the recipe worked for you!

  13. Hi Celia, I made the HAR CHEONG GAI again and with the correct corn flour. It taste fantastic. Thank you so much for showing me how to make. This is deeply appreciated.

  14. Hi Doris, no kidding, that’s happened to me too!! Not with tapioca flour, but with some other flour that I had wrongly identified in my pantry. of my many cooking blunders! Thank you so much for taking the time to write not one, not two, but three comments on various recipes you’ve tried here. You’re awesome! Hearing from such enthusiastic readers like you really helps make my blogging journey all that much more fulfilling! I’m coming back with zeal this year with more recipes.. hope you’ll check in from time to time, or even better, subscribe for free to get my latest recipe posts!

  15. Hi Celia, thank you for sharing this prawn recipe. Everything turned okay except I made One silly mistake of using tapioca flour (instead of the corn or potato starch in your recipe), so the mixture was very sticky and chewy. I will try this again with the potato starch. Overall, the taste was fantastic.

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