Words and Images by Pelin Keskin
Shilin Night Market is like a real life treasure chest with edible jewels. You know how there's one place everyone wants to go to and they get excited? Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Santorini. Me? If I've heard you've been to Taipei, it's over, I've accosted you.
Which is why, when I found out that Hot Star was opening a location in Toronto I may or may not have organised my cheat day to coincide with this review (I'm trying to eat smaller portions. Yes, it's hard, thank you for asking).
The thing about Hot Star, like all the other food vendors in Taipei's night markets, is that they have a specialty and that is what they do and that is what they are famous for. Lines outside of the vendors indicate that what they're selling is tasty, and the tactic for the night market is to eat various things from various vendors. Which is why it gets a little annoying when you read "reviews" (I use the term very loosely) like this. I want it to be stressed; just because it is being marketed as 'fast food' does not mean that it's like McDonalds. There are no combo deals over here. Hot Star's speciality is huge fried chicken and that's exactly what you go there for and that's exactly what you eat.
Hot Star has expanded its business from Taipei and now has storefronts in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Its first North American location, Toronto, has graced it with a healthy line up with people just like me.
When I showed up, there was a little bit of confusion as to which line is the order line and which is the pick up line, due to logistics. I opted for the original fried chicken with salt and pepper and a blue curacoa yoghurt drink. There are a few things on the menu that were coming soon but I personally wouldn't worry about these because you don't go to a place famous for its steaks and order a salmon.
There is a bit of a wait because they make every piece of chicken to order; there are no warmers. Everything is fresh and when you get that huge golden joy the size of your face, it makes everything worth it. After finding a seat in front of the lineup, I sat down and engaged in peak schadenfreude; eating fried chicken in front of people lining up for fried chicken. Hey, it's only fair - I went through it a mere 15 minutes prior.
The batter was seasoned extremely well, and the exterior was the perfect medium between crunchy and chewy. The batter didn't flake off in huge chunks which can sometimes be a problem with fried chicken. Instead, it kept its consistency so you got a perfect batter to meat ratio with every bite. Inside, the chicken was juicy and tender and melted in your mouth. The blue yoghurt drink was just sweet enough and was a perfect pairing as it cooled down my impatient mouth. My love for Popeyes is steadfast and unwavering, but this is....competition.
You can get to Hot Star in Toronto, Canada at 347A Yonge Street.