TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- For those expats who have tried KFC in Taiwan and wondered why the fried chicken is crispier, juicier and spicier than its American cousin, a writer at OZY.com gained some insights into some of the localized ingredients and preparations to compete in Taiwan's fierce fried chicken market.
Fried chicken is king in Taiwan with Taiwanese popcorn chicken and Taiwanese style fried chicken taking first and second place, respectively, on ezTravel's list of the 10 most popular street foods in Taiwan last year. To compete with local Taiwanese contenders, KFC has had to make extensive adaptations to its offerings in the local market.
In her article titled, "Why KFC is even better in Taiwan," Leslie Nguyen-Okwu first points out the many menu differences, such as KFC's breakfast option of congee rice porridge topped with fried chicken, pork floss and sweet corn. She mentions an Elvisesque sandwich that contains smoked bacon, fried chicken and peanut butter; the only thing that Elvis would miss would be the bananas.
A popular dessert at KFCs in Taiwan are caramelized egg custard tarts, which closely resemble those seen in Macau, and come in some new, wild Asia-centric flavors such as brown sugar mochi egg tart.
As for the Taiwanese take on the chicken itself, she indicates that it is first marinated in sugar and soy sauce before being coated in a secret "crispy coating." Similar to the Taiwanese McDonald's take on fried chicken, Nguyen-Okwu says that KFC fried chicken in Taiwan is deep fried twice to give it both a crunchy and flaky exterior, which she likened to tempura, while retaining a juicy interior.
She writes that the chicken is then covered with herbs and spices more familiar to Taiwanese tastes, such as basil leaves and five-spice powder, which itself contains star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.
Last year, an employee of a local Taiwanese KFC explained the process of making fried chicken, which takes longer to prepare than rival McDonald's localized fried foul. After the frozen chicken meat is sent to its stores, servers have to marinate the meat, coat the chicken with flour, fry the chicken, and then serve the hot fried chicken to the customers.
The server also indicated at the time that there were actually four kinds of fried chicken in KFC, including the crispy fried chicken with and without spicy flavor, fried chicken with thinner skin, and the pomelo fried chicken which was only available for a limited-time last year.
Yet in the highly competitive world of fried chicken in Taiwan, and despite being so tasty, KFC's fried chicken last year only ranked fifth out of the top five most popular fried chicken restaurants in Taiwan, according to the travel site MOOK. Based on cost-performance (CP值), meat tenderness, dipping powder or sauce, and other factors, Napoli topped the list, followed by Chicken House, Fat Old Daddy, Dicos and KFC.
In terms of sheer numbers, McDonald's the KFC are the two largest fast food restaurant chains in Taiwan. As of May 2015, there were a total of 538 McDonald's and KFC restaurants in Taiwan.