The little fried chicken shop from Taiwan is part of a chain that hopes to knock its American competitor out of the spotlight
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A relatively new Taiwanese fried chicken shop has become a local fan favourite in Swansea, with some arguing it's "better than KFC" for its crispy and juicy battered options – giving a whole new meaning to 'finger lickin' good'. Blink and you may miss it, JI Chicken Shop is found hidden away on St Helens Road, having first appeared two months ago with hopes of bringing a taste of the East to a busy Uplands and Brynmill trade.
The authentic Taiwanese street food boasts a wider fried menu than that of its Kentucky competitor, offering options from fried succulent chicken to octopus, squid and prawns alongside drinks that include Taiwanese tea with other variations.
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Swansea is no stranger to some hidden little gems for food but is now growing in numbers from flavours and restaurants centred on cuisine found in the East. You need only walk a few steps down the road to find Muswanna, a charming little Asian restaurant that has quickly established itself as a city favourite.
Now only a few footsteps away, JI has joined the likes of a growing city operating under a chain name that can be found elsewhere in the UK, including Cardiff. It has seemingly introduced itself through word of mouth and locals have described it as the "best chicken we have ever tried". With a big name competitor only minutes away, we went to see if it lived up to the hype.
The shop is primarily aimed at takeaways while offering a handful of seating options, which I was thankful for given it decided to rain in typical Welsh weather fashion, at the worst possible time. From three screens overhead, you can choose options from Taiwanese drinks, including bubble tea and fried options – including favourites like popcorn chicken and even a choice of crispy squid and battered octopus.
The choice of meat and fish was slightly more than KFC. Having a soft spot for calamari, I decided to try their fried option of crispy octopus at £5, chicken wings at £5.50 and a Taiwanese caramel milk tea at £3.50. For a total of £14.50, it is slightly steeper then your typical KFC order but one I could justify for trying out a new meal and hoped the price would be reflected in the quantity.
Staff were helpful to walk me through the options – each fried option comes with a choice of seasonings with arguably too many to choose from but choice can never be considered a negative thing. I opted for spicy salt and pepper seasoning on the octopus and a spicy hot seasoning on the chicken wings and was met with a mouth-watering smell while I waited. A generous amount of seasoning is offered on the options and you could choose from; kimchi, lemon, cheese, plum, mixed seasoning, wasabi, garlic and cumin BBQ – offering something for everyone.
The octopus was everything I had hoped for and more, a generous portion worth £5 in my eyes, and the salt and pepper seasoning added to the flavour. Items are even served with wooden skewers, so you can avoid getting your hands greasy. Being a fan of hot and spicy food, KFC hot wings are nothing in comparison to the hot wings given by this Taiwanese shop, you get a generous amount again of five which were twice the size of the KFC ones.
Everything was rich in flavour and crispy and tore off the bone, a definite contender for the catchphrase 'finger lickin' good' and I can see why it has received such praise. Within my order I also received deep fried sweet potato slices, a different take on chips but found this to be a fantastic side that I seemingly got as an unexpected addition, and would thoroughly recommend as it is very sweet and enjoyable.
The caramel milk tea was something I thought I would try – knowing a lot of praise for bubble tea and the like I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Choosing between an option of higher sugar volume or lower, It served as my lunchtime iced coffee of sorts but found it to be incredibly sweet and creamy but not overpowering. The label did say "50% sugar" which left me a bit concerned afterwards but still enjoyed.
If you're a fan of deep fried chicken or even flavours from the East, this place is a must try. It is different from your KFC but I couldn't fault it other than it being slightly more expensive – it could potentially be your next following morning cure after a heavy night out on Wind Street. To get more food and drink stories like this straight to your email inbox, subscribe to our What's On newsletter here.
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