Who is Shawn and why did we come all the way to Richmond for his chicken?
Shawn’s Chicken (also referred to as Yongshun Fried Chicken) is well-known in Beijing, China originating in the 1990’s. Their fried chicken is marinated with more than twenty different Chinese herbs. They claim this removes the smell of meat and enhances its flavour, while adding extra moisture to it; all before each piece gets a thorough deep frying. The above cooking method is said to make the meat “golden in color, fresh, juicy, crispy, and tender” (all the hallmarks of a fine fried chicken). And after trying their entire menu, I can confirm this to be quite true.
The first sign of a good fried chicken place is the air quality when walking in. Here, it wasn’t greasy, and you only smelled the oil when they are actually frying. We walked into a well-ventilated, smaller space without an identifying scent.
You order at the counter with the clerk, and pay. Once your order is completed it is served to you on a tray. If dining in, space is limited to the bar with stools facing the window. Majority of the customers coming in this night were picking up and taking out.
Their chicken is available in original or spicy, with a variety of parts to choose from: thigh, drum, wing, popcorn; or the entire leg, which they refer to as “axe chicken”.
As a whole I found I have not had chicken seasoned like this previously. The combination of spices were really original. The meat was overall clean, with an audible crunch biting through the skin. It all had a normal amount of grease transferring to your fingers and lips.
I just found that I wanted something fresh to have with it. The drink option of lemonade or plum soda was helpful in cleansing some of this. But I would have still liked a side to further it. Much like how Korean fried chicken has pickled radish, sushi has pickled ginger, and American style barbecue has pickles and corn. Although truthfully, I cannot think of one item that would compliment the meal as a whole.
The Plum soda was sweet and tangy. The Lemonade soda came with a salty kick that led to tart.
Truthfully, there wasn’t much different between the spicy and original seasoned chicken, except a hint a chilli heat. Inconsistently, some pieces were spicy with cumin, and other bites numbing with peppercorn. In both instances the heat built, the more you ate.
Out of all the varieties, my favourite was the “axe”, which was a healthy piece and included experience of gnawing juicy dark meat from off of bone, cartilage and all. The latter most is my favourite part.
The popcorn chicken was more like a side, given how small the nuggets were and how many you had to pop to feel satiated. Although having it lightly dusted in plum powder did have it paralleling the soda well for a cohesive combination.
It feels counter productive to have small bits of chicken as a side to larger pieces, so I would suggest their regular from frozen potato or yam fries instead. A standard pairing that offers just enough contrast to keep things interesting.
Surprisingly I did like their simple and skinny chicken wrap. But that is probably because I do like their chicken. The thick breading of the chicken strip here, was like all the others above, well seasoned with the flavour of 5 spice being the most prominent. And my issue with freshness was solved thanks to the inclusion of cabbage, cucumber, and a slathering of sweet mayo; all wrapped up in a flour tortilla shell.
Overall, Shawn’s is a great and unique addition to the rich fried chicken game. Tasty, but not necessarily something you would know to crave again. A great option if you are looking for something different, and are a fan of Chinese spices. Not quite like Taiwanese-style but a cousin to it.
Shawn’s Chicken 永顺炸鸡
4540 No. 3 Rd #1295, Richmond, BC V6X 4E4