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An ode to 'Chicken Dry Hot & Spicy', Mayo's takeaway phenomenon

Say hello to the signature dish of Ballina.

Timeline Photos - Lantern Chinese Restaurant | Facebook Source: Facebook/Lantern Chinese Restaurant

EVERY TOWN HAS its own special delicacy. Waterford has the blaa, Cork has the Sloppy Foley… And Ballina, Co Mayo has Chicken Dry Hot & Spicy.

Ask anyone from the town and the surrounding areas, and they’ll tell you that Dry Hot & Spicy is the only thing you should order from the Chinese.

But what is it?

It’s exactly what it says on the tin – chicken with a lovely spicy coating.

The dish was created by Sunny Ho, owner of The Lantern Chinese Restaurant in Ballina, which has been serving it up since 1986.

Its popularity is such that a version of it is served in almost every takeaway in the town, but the Lantern’s has never been bettered.

What’s so good about it?

It LOOKS like your average spicy chicken from the Chinese, but it’s not. Everyone in Ballina knows there’s just something different about it, but hold varying opinions on where the magic actually happens.

The Fearsome Trio of The Dry Hot & Spicy ... Source: Facebook/Lantern Chinese Restaurant

Some told DailyEdge.ie that it’s down to the chicken itself:

It’s proper chicken, not stringy shite.

Others are all about the coating:

I like that it’s not a batter coating.
The spices in the coating are really not like anything I’ve ever tasted before or since.

AND WE ARE OPEN! LET THE MADNESS BEGIN :P Source: Facebook/Lantern Chinese Restaurant

And even more are devoted to the onions that accompany it.

It’s the onions. I f**king love the onions.

Dry Hot & Spicy is widely considered to be Ballina’s signature dish – a Facebook page set up to honour it has gotten over 3,000 likes (to put that into perspective, Ballina has a population of 10,361, as of the last census).

Even Jack Charlton, who regularly visits the town to fish, is a fan.

Look who popped in to order Chicken Dry, Hot & ... Source: Facebook/Lantern Chinese Restaurant

Sounds like it’s a veritable phenomenon.

It is. The dish is so famed in Ballina that The Lantern set up a Dry Hot & Spicy Challenge so people could prove their love for it (and win a voucher for the restaurant).

WE ARE UPPING THE ANTE! IF YOU SUCCESSFULLY ... Source: Facebook/Lantern Chinese Restaurant

People come from all over Mayo to try and consume a bowl of hot chicken wings, a bowl of Dry Hot & Spicy, and a bowl of spicy chips in 30 minutes, without taking a drink.

There have been four winners in the year the challenge has been running (and a lot of red faces).

Can you get it anywhere else but Mayo?

There are variations (Salt and Chilli Chicken is kiiiiinda close, we guess) but nothing comes close to the Lantern. And Mayo people mourn this fact every single day.

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