Anytime you use the word ‘fried’ it can go one of two ways: it is either sinful or disappointing. There are few things worse than a soggy chip or an oily, limp piece of squid. I learnt this recipe travelling throughout Southeast Asia. In their eating culture they take their cooking adjectives pretty seriously: if it says spicy, it will be eyeball-popping spicy; if they say soft, it will be pillowy soft. I share the same view, so if I read the word ‘crispy’, I expect it to be crispy. I designed this recipe off the culinary techniques of Asia, but blended in a small amount of southern American style. (By that I mean I didn’t worry about calories.)

To achieve divine crispiness, I’ll share a tip – we are gonna start with steam. Steam you say?… trust me. I’ll make a believer out of you.



Courtenay Place and The Press Hall

To compile a list of top three fried chickens in Wellington and not mention Lucky would be a death sentence for me. That is all I really need to say. Lucky sticks to the more universal buttermilk-fried style that is honest, approachable, timeless and a quintessential of the Wellington scene. Great to eat as a snack, lunch, in between and, dare I say, breakfast. What I like best about Lucky’s fried chicken is that it knows what it wants to be, and it does it all too well. My top tip for ordering: the poppers come in large and small… why would you order the small, when large is available? You won’t regret it. Add some spiced mayo and tangy pickle and you’re just about knock’n on heaven’s door.

Soul Shack

36 Dixon St

This spot easily goes to Rick and the team at Soul Shack. Their chicken is pretty much the leader of its own cult, and I am about to become a disciple. Soul Shack is a real-life success story – they’ve been knocked back a few times, but never let it hold them down. Everybody loves someone following their dream, and I am no exception. Their fried chicken embodies what they love to eat and wanna share. It is fried in the Nashville style, and they pain themselves getting their chilli up to the task with the Carolina Reapers they source. You can order it spicier than Satan, or as mild as Jesus. There is no judgement. Winner of the People’s Choice Award in the Restaurant Association’s 2019 Felix Awards. Fried chicken from people who love what they do – and you can taste that.

Highwater Eatery

54 Cuba St

Fried chicken is largely seen as a street food, so what happens when someone decides to take it off the streets and give it a home? Highwater’s fried chicken is what happens. As a chef myself, I like it when food leaves me with a curiosity gap. There is more going on here than the menu description, with some hidden treatments happening. As with the other nominees, the chicken is the star of the show. The bread texture, the ratio of slaw and seasoning is a purposeful layering – there are no accidents here, it’s composed and purposeful. This is fried chicken with a higher education, but without any pretentions. It starts with a well-sourced product and, like any good house guest, they leave it better than they found it.

Serves: 2 - 4
Preparation: 20 mins plus marinating time & cooling time
Cook: 35 mins


20 mins plus marinating time & cooling time