Taiwanese popcorn chicken are bite-sized pieces of chicken that are marinated with a seasoning mixture, battered in egg and flour then deep fried. Though the breading itself tastes different than the typical American fried chicken, it’s the seasoning that really makes the difference. The special ingredient? The Five-spice Powder which consists of cloves, cinnamon, pepper, fennel and star anise that brings you all of the five flavours of sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty.
This snack is not only a popular appetizer in Taiwanese restaurants and cafes, but also a staple in night markets. Did you know? Taiwanese popcorn chicken are also referred to as Taiwanese fried chicken, Taiwanese crispy chicken, or salt and pepper chicken.
With so many Taiwanese joints in Toronto, where can we find the best Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken in the city? Together with fellow Instagrammers Patrick (@FeedMyPhone) and Jon (@Jon_MrDimsum), we went on a food crawl to find the best Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken in the city, trying 8 different places in one day.
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Destiny Asian Fusion
Website / Address: 633 Silver Star Blvd #115, Scarborough, ON M1V 5N1
Comments: The popcorn chicken was juicy, crispy and tender in nice bite-sized chunks. However, I found the flavour to be a bit weak despite the fried basil. The portion was reasonable for the price.
Taipei Chin Yuan Pai Ku
Address: 3636 Steeles Ave E, Markham, ON L3R 1K9
Comments: This place is located in the food court of Metro Square plaza. Though they do serve popcorn chicken, it is actually a secret menu item that you have to ask for. Their chicken was good considering being the cheapest (and no tip necessary since it’s in a food court). The chicken was tender and juicy. The taste was much better than Destiny’s. However, my issue with their popcorn chicken is they do chicken strips instead of popcorn-shaped which sort of affected the enjoyment and the breading-to-chicken ratio on each bite. The strips also made the crispiness inconsistent depending on the size of the strip.
Cha Me. Cha
Website / Address: 8333 Kennedy Rd #1078, Unionville, ON L3R 1J5
Comments: This place is located at Langham Square. Despite being the most expensive, the portion is also the biggest here so it’s good to share, and pieces are bigger as well. The chicken was very tender and juicy with the right crispiness. Though it comes with sauce, I loved it on its own because the flavour is on point. The only issue I had here was that one or two pieces had small soft bone cartilage in them.
Website / Address: 1076-8333 Kennedy Rd, Markham, ON L3R 4P8
Comments: This place is also located at Langham Square beside Cha Me. Cha. The popcorn chicken here were the biggest pieces out of all we tried so the breading-to-chicken ratio was a little bit off. The chicken was tender and juicy. However, I found they used too much five-spice powder that there was a very strong aftertaste. Note, they call it Salty Crispy Chicken on the menu.
Address: 28 South Unionville Ave. Unit 1035, Markham, ON L3R 4P9
Comments: This place is also located at Langham Square across the parking lot from ZenQ. Unfortunately, we were all in consensus that this was ranked last for the crawl. The popcorn chicken looked so dark that it seemed like it was over-fried or was fried using old oil. Pieces were on the bigger side as well. The chicken was tender but not juicy. The worst part was three pieces had big tough bones in it (not even the small cartilage that you can just bite away if you wanted) so you really need to be cautious not swallow a bone by mistake.
Website / Address: 3255 Hwy 7 #19-20, Markham, ON L3R 3P9
Comments: This place is located in First Markham Place. The breading here was the most different. It looked very white-ish pale and you can see big puffs of white on the breading. The chicken was juicy and tender, but it was really lacking the five-spice taste. The sweet and source sauce that came with it reminded me of the ones you get from fast food.
Website / Address: 3235 Hwy 7 #23-26, Markham, ON L3R 3P3
Comments: This place is also located at First Markham Place beside Sugar Marmalade. I found their popcorn chicken to be more like the American style popcorn chicken because the breading is more like Popeye’s or KFC. The chicken was tender but on the dryer side. It was also bland. Though I typically don’t like dipping sauce with my popcorn chicken, this is one where I dipped a lot on the Sriracha mayo that came with it.
Website / Address: 30-280 West Beaver Creek Rd, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3B1
Comments: This place is located at the Jubilee Square. The popcorn chicken is very tender and juicy with the right bite-size portion. It is also the second cheapest overall, or cheapest among restaurants. It comes with a sauce which I found unneccesary because it is very flavourful. Maybe a little too flavourful. I found it would’ve been so much better with less spices. There was also a strong ginger taste that was not to my liking.
From everything we tried in this crawl, here are our top 2 picks for Best Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken in Toronto.
Both Jon and I chose Cha Me. Cha. Patrick chose Papa Chang’s.
Both Jon and I chose Papa Chang’s. Patrick chose Cha Me. Cha.
It’s clear from this that the best two for us are both Cha Me. Cha and Papa Chang’s! Where’s your favourite spot for Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken in Toronto?
P.S. We actually had at least 12 places in our list but we didn’t have time to do them all. (Hint to a part 2 maybe?)
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