Chicken Chop: The Most Misunderstood Dish in Malaysia
Chicken Chop is a dish consists of a piece of deep fried chicken, drenched in gravy, served with potatoes and mixed vegetables, and it is the most misunderstood dish in Malaysia. Based on its look, many would think that this is a Western dish, like lamb chop or beef steak, but it’s not. This misconception is so deeply rooted in Malaysia that chicken chop is always labelled as Western food alongside burgers, steaks, pasta, and fish and chips.
Chicken Chop is actually called Hainanese Chicken Chop. Even with this piece of information, many would still think that the dish came from Hainan China, like Hainanese chicken rice, but no, there is not a similar dish like this in Hainan.
Chicken Chop is a dish created originally by Hainanese settlers in Malaya during British colonization, thus making it exclusively a Malaysian (and Singaporean) dish. Hainanese were among the last Chinese immigrants to make their way to British Malaya, missing out on employment opportunities in tin mining, rubber production, agriculture etc. Therefore, many Hainanese ended up working as cooks and kopitiam (coffee shops) operators feeding the British expatriates and colonial masters. Since meat and potatoes were popular mealtime options for the British, the Chicken Chop was born: a true mixture of cooking methods and flavours of East & West.
The chicken is marinated in soy sauce, five-spice powder and sesame oil, coated with potato or tapioca starch, and then deep fried to a crisp. It is usually served with potato as the carbohydrate of the dish, in the forms of wedges, french fries or mashed potatoes. Vegetables like peas, carrots, tomatoes, corn, cucumber or even coleslaw are also served to provide some freshness. Last but not least, glossy and flavourful gravy (usually onion gravy, mushroom sauce or black pepper sauce) is slathered onto the Chicken Chop, flooding the whole plate. The end result is a beautiful dance of different textures and flavours – crunchy, chewy, juicy, sweet, savoury, tangy and full of umami.