Dubai Diaries: What's your fried chicken story?

Dubai - Sometimes all we need is a bucket of chicken to fry a bad day away.


By Kirstin Bernabe-Santos

Published: Wed 31 Mar 2021, 9:12 AM

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s a good chance you have a fried chicken story. Somewhere out there is an ode to the crackle it creates as one sinks her teeth into its crispy goodness. Sometimes, all we need is a bucket of chicken to fry a bad day away. Lucky for us in Dubai, this classic comfort food is everywhere — so much so that there’s an entire brood of ‘signature fried chickens’ for your every mood. Off the top of my head is Jollibee because, well, I’m Filipino. And many of us grew up knowing it was the ultimate prize for getting good grades. One-piece chicken with rice and gravy (or, sometimes, sweet spaghetti on the side) was not a meal, but a pat on the back and a language of love. Do you remember the ridiculous queue that snaked through the Dubai Mall food court in 2015, all because the kabayan bee was finally in the UAE? Yep, that’s how crazy we are about Jollibee’s chickenjoy, which, by the way, now comes with a biryani rice option.

Coming from a culture where rice was life, I left my comfort zone when I tried Texas Chicken’s tenders meal with honey-butter biscuits. What a revelation! It also whisked me away from my gravy dependency as I found a soul mate in its jalapeno mayo dip. At one point, I outgrew TC and found a gourmet version of the chicken-and-biscuits meal at The Boutique Kitchen. The sweet-and-salty combo is a winner. You see, every culture has its own way of turning the humble chicken into a craze. Case in point? Korean fried chicken. Whenever I feel cheesy after a K-Drama marathon, my fried chicken literally gets cheesy, too. I go to Nene Chicken at Mall of the Emirates for a four-piece order coated in a snow of cheese.

There are days, however, when I want it simple, no nonsense. Max’s, aka ‘the house that fried chicken built’, serves it without any breading: Just the chicken fried to perfection and its banana ketchup sidekick. But if there’s any place that will always have a special corner in my heart, it’s Pancake House. Its Dubai branch was a wish granted. The homemade specialty that comes out of its orange-and-pink kitchen takes me back to the first time I met fried chicken. I was about five then and a moody, picky eater. It was taking me an hour to finish my soup, so grandma took out a bowl of chicken pieces from the fridge. They were swimming in a marinade of fish sauce and calamansi (a citrus fruit). Then, one by one, she dredged them in some flour and tossed them in a pan half-filled with boiling oil. A few minutes later, I was already holding a drumstick, munching away. It was love at first bite.

Kirstin wants to know what your fried chicken story is...

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