Hot Star's branch in the Philippines serves chicken fillets in original, crispy and barbecue. Photo: Handout
MANILA – A popular fast food chain in Taiwan has finally made its way to Manila.
As its name suggests, Hot Star Large Fried Chicken specializes in huge deep-fried chicken breast fillets. And by “large,” they mean around 30 centimeters in size – bigger than the average Filipino’s face.
Hot Star’s first store in the country is located at the new Blue Bay Walk along Macapagal Avenue, just a few minutes away from SM Mall of Asia, and is set to open its doors to the public on Tuesday.
Unlike the fried chicken kiosks found in Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Hong Kong and other parts of the region, the Philippine branch looks more like a quick-service restaurant that comes with an express counter.
The menu has also been tweaked to suit the Filipino palate, with rice meals and other alternatives such as spaghetti, sandwiches, chicken poppers, chicken skin and even deep-fried fish fillets.
Hot Star's chicken sandwich. Photo: Handout
Founded in Taiwan in 1992, Hot Star was brought to the Philippines by businessman Richard Chua, who also owns the homegrown concept Peanut Butter Company along Katipunan in Quezon City and at Paseo Center in Makati.
Recalling his meeting with the owners of Hot Star, Chua said they pushed for the addition of “local” items on the menu.
“Yun talaga ‘yung sinabi namin, we have to add rice and spaghetti because that’s what Filipinos want,” he told ABS-CBNnews.com and select food writers, citing how fast food giants such as McDonald’s have also adapted to the local palate.
“And we also added fish, kasi merong iba na ayaw ng chicken, so they have more options,” he added.
Value for money
Local chicken breast fillets are cut and prepared using a technique perfected in Hot Star Taiwan. The rest of the ingredients – from the marinade to the powder used for the meat – are imported.
Customers may choose from three types of fried chicken – original, crispy and barbecue, which is coated with barcebue sauce and topped with sesame seeds.
To those who want a bit of heat, chili powder may be added upon request.
“In Taiwan and in all Hot Star branches, they don’t cut the chicken,” Chua explained. “They want to preserve the juiciness of the chicken – when you cut the chicken, nawawala kasi ‘yung juices. And siyempre when you cut it, hindi na siya malaki.”
One order of Hot Star’s chicken breast fillet is quite a steal at P110 (P125 for the barbecue variant) as it can easily be shared by two people because of its large size. Add P35 and it becomes a meal with rice and drink.
Chua noted that the amount is cheaper than some fast food outlets in the country, and even some Hot Star branches abroad. In Macau, for instance, one order costs HK$30 or around P173.
“We really wanted to make it cheaper here,” he said.
When it comes to taste, Hot Star delivers. The original chicken with chili powder here tastes exactly the same as when I tried it in Macau – it’s juicy, crispy and very flavorful. Add more chili powder for that extra kick.
Another value-for-money item on the menu is Hot Star’s chicken skin, which only costs P45 for three sticks. Crunchy and a bit sweet, it can be enjoyed both as a snack and as a viand.
Hot Star's chicken skin. Photo: Handout
While the chicken is the star of the show at Hot Star, the deep-fried fish also deserves some attention. The soft, flaky fish coated in crispy batter is a great alternative to those who want to try something else on the menu.
By using quality cream dory, Hot Star was able to keep the price relatively low at P110, Chua said.
Black gulaman, crunchy fruit salad
There is not much that can be said about Hot Star Philippines’ spaghetti (it’s your typical Pinoy-style pasta) and the other side dishes. Still, Chua and the rest of his team deserve praise for coming up with creative desserts.
Instead of the usual chocolate or vanilla, Chua decided to add an Asian twist by offering soft-serve ice cream and smoothies in black gulaman and almond flavors.
Hot Star's black gulaman- and almond-flavored desserts. Photo: Handout
“Napansin namin ‘pag pumupunta sa Chinese restaurants, ang mga families ang dessert talaga nila is usually black gulaman or almond jelly,” he said. “We wanted to offer something different and have that Asian feel.”
The black gulaman and almond soft-serve were mildly sweet and very refreshing, making them ideal summer treats. It’s hard to say the same thing, however, for the crunchy fruit salad, which tastes quite odd.
The dessert is basically canned fruit cocktail coated in a mixture of cream and mayonnaise and topped with bits of chicken skin. It’s best to stick with the black gulaman- and almond-flavored treats.
With its interesting offerings, Chua hopes that Hot Star will be well-received by Filipino diners across all classes.
After its Blue Bay Walk branch, Hot Star is already looking at stores in Tomas Morato, Quezon City and Greenhills, San Juan.
“Hindi naman siya mahirap ibenta eh, it’s a good product. It’s very universal,” Chua said.
HOT STAR LARGE FRIED CHICKEN
Blue Bay Walk, Macapagal Avenue corner EDSA