Belacan Fried Chicken

“Guess what I’m craving?”

Belacan Fried Chicken

belacan fried chicken

I asked Nate this the other day. The only time I say this is when I’m craving fried chicken so it was a no-brainer that Nate responded with, “Fried chicken! …KFC?”

I almost said yes to KFC but when I thought about it, I responded, “maybe I’ll just fry some chicken at home. Some belacan fried chicken?” “Yum!” was his reply. (yeah, he’s so not typically American—doncha just love him?!?).

Belacan, pronounced “b’lah-CHAN”, is a Malaysian paste made up of ground-up, fermented shrimp. It is typically packed in blocks and sun-dried. We came home with a few blocks of belacan from our recent trip to Penang.

Block of Belacan Shrimp Paste

block of belacan shrimp paste

The Big Hit

So how did I come about this recipe? Last month, a visiting preacher, who happened to be a chef in his former life, had cooked us a feast that included asam laksa, tomyam soup and nasi lemak. He had fried up this belacan chicken to go with the nasi lemak.

The fried chicken was the big hit of the night and I was amazed when I found out how simple the ingredients were. Unfortunately, he (like most Malaysian cooks…sigh!) doesn’t measure when he cooks. Armed with the list of ingredients, I had to figure out the proportions myself.

Still, you should adjust your seasonings based on your own tastebuds and ingredients (this is becoming my caveat emptor in case you should find my food too salty, not salty enough, etc).

So here is a delicious recipe for belacan fried chicken. Yes, I know. Belacan is dried fermented shrimp paste and it’s stinky. But you know what? In this dish, belacan is the STAR and the taste is WONDERFUL! If you’ve never had belacan, you need to try this dish. You might just never go back to boring flavors for your fried chicken after this.

The trick with belacan is you need to roast the it till it is dry and crumbly. You can do this in several ways—you can cut up pieces of belacan and broil/bake them, or roast them right over a fire or dry roast them like we did in a wok/cast iron pan. NOTE: do this in a kitchen with lots of ventilation or else your house will really reek of shrimp!

Roasting Belacan

toasting belacan

Once it is dry, you break it apart and either blend or pound it till it is powdery. Any extras can be kept in a dry jar to be used with other ingredients that call for belacan.

These days, you can find belacan at most Asian grocery stores. Look in the Southeast Asian aisle or if you really cannot find it, you can substitute with harm ha (fermented shrimp paste in a jar). It won’t be quite the same but close enough. You might not want to use as much as it will be saltier than belacan.

Curry Leaves

curry leaves

Nate and I decided to add a few sprigs of curry leaves from our neighbor’s tree to the marinade because we love fried curry leaves and thought it would work well with the chicken. It did. We thought that it might even be better if there was a little spice kick to the marinate. Oh well…next time! ^_^

This fried chicken is not like our crispy Thai fried chicken recipe. The batter is not crispy the way the other one is. You can really see the chicken and the crispiness is more on the chicken and its skin than an actual coating. It’s still very good though different. Give both a try and tell me which you prefer. I love them both equally.

Actually, there aren’t too many fried chickens that I don’t love. Teehee!

Belacan Fried Chicken Recipe

4 boneless chicken thighs and 2 boneless breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (or one chicken, cut into 16 pieces)
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 heaping Tbsp cornstarch
scant 2 Tbsp roasted and ground belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
2 sprigs curry leaves, stem removed (optional)
2-3 cups peanut oil or canola oil

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the oil together with the chicken pieces and let it marinate for at least 3 hours.

belacan fried chicken marinade

2. Heat oil in wok. Use chopstick test to check oil is hot enough (stick wooden chopstick in oil and if it bubbles out the end, it’s hot enough).
3. Slowly drop chicken pieces into hot oil and turn every so often to brown evenly. Do not crowd the pieces so that the oil doesn’t drop in temperature too much. The chicken should bubble vigorously as it fries. Don’t worry if the curry leaves fall out, it’s delicious to munch on the leaves on its own.

frying belacan chicken

4. If you’re using boned chicken, make sure you watch the temperature of the oil to ensure the chicken is cooked through and not burned.
5. Drain chicken and serve immediately.

Belacan Fried Chicken

belacan fried chicken 2


Cheers, Annie

Since this recipe uses curry leaves from our neighbor’s tree, I am entering this in the Grow Your Own roundup this month. “Grow Your Own” is a blog carnival created by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes that celebrates foods cooked with ingredients you grew or harvested yourself.

14 thoughts on “Belacan Fried Chicken”

  1. For the extra crispiness on the surface of the chicken, try add in frying flour instead of corn flour. You should have gotten the "Hup Loong" all purpose flying flour from Penang earlier. It's one of the best brand around. You might get it there too.

    Try using a better quality soy sauce instead of salt for a milder saltiness as the belacan (depending on the brand you buy) can be quite salty.

    Some sprinkle of of pepper would be nice if you do not have curry leaves available.

    Lastly, Maggi brand "granulated belacan powder" can be quite useful for those who do not like an overpowering belacan taste or making the whole neighborhood running for their lives.. haha!

    These are some of my secrets in preparing the belacan fried chicken. You might want try out with your own adjustment next time. 🙂

    All the best!

    Criz Lai

  2. @all – thanks for your comments!

    @Single Guy Ben – it's okay – these were skinless pieces, so less saturated fat.

    @Sharlene – you're welcome1

    @Criz – thanks for all the advice. I'll have to look for the frying powder in our local stores.

    @Sonia – thanks 🙂

  3. I absolutely LOVE belacan fried chicken but too lazy to prepare them…frying chicken means getting oil all over the kitchen and I absolutely hate cleaning up the oily surfaces. Sigh. oh well, all the better for my waistline. lol.

  4. Oh Yum! I will have to try this, I was thinking I would dry the shrimp paste out in the sun (unless I can find the Maggi powder!) Thanks for more inspiration.

  5. Annie – I have been wanting to make belacan chicken for the longest time but haven't. Now that it's spring here I might have to try it (better ventilation with windows open). I have a recipe from a cookbook which uses the bottled shrimp paste and egg. Not sure if you try choo char in Penang but it's the dish that I always order when eating out in Penang. So aromatic and good. Definitely my favorite fried chicken recipe.

  6. Tried making it once not too long ago … didn't turn out too good. Will give yr recipe a try.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. @Rasa – that's what's so great about Malaysia – we have wet kitchens with more ventilation! 😉

    @Alisa – It's a very tasty recipe. Do let us know if you make it!

    @Tigger Mum – let us know how you like it. We'll be tweaking the recipe too so stay tuned!

  8. How I wish can find a live curry leaves/pandan plant to grow in NZ!

    Tips for roasting your belacan, when you start your barbeque stove, slice belacan into small cubes (as small as you can) and put that in an aluminium foil. But don’t close the foil, leave it on the stove and turn it occasionally. You may need to mash your belacan now and then to become really crumbly.

    We will do this whenever we start our charcoal bb, and will leave it towards the end for roasting belacan. Then stored it in a jar. It is handy when we need to use it to make rojak, etc.

  9. Hello, Instead of frying, can I roast the chicken pieces?
    Must try as your recipe is so scrumptious.
    Sydney has belachan fried chicken near Town Hall.
    Restaurant is called Sedap. I think it is Indonesian.

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