My fiance is from Hawai’i, more specifically, the island of Oahu. As a result, he’s used to Hawaiian food. Sadly, you can’t get authentic Hawaiian food in the DC metro area; so I’ve been tasked with learning a cuisine I have minimal familiarity with. On top of this, my fiance has effectively no cooking ability himself, so I have to learn on my own.
Lucky for me, Hawaiian cooking is a fusion of asian flavors, something I have years of experience with; and my friend gave me a trusty cookbook of all the best Hawaiian food to help in my journey, “Jean Hee’s Best of the Best Hawai’i Recipes” by Jean Watanabe Hee.
I don’t make Hawaiian food often because it is ridiculously unhealthy. I mean, twice the amount of sugar an average Japanese dish might have, 3x the salt, large amounts of frying, and many processed meats (Spam is NOT my idea of a healthy meal). That being said, Hawaiian food is also ridiculously delicious, so sometimes I just can’t help myself.
Mochiko chicken is one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes. It originates in Japanese cuisine, but it really can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It’s kind of like the Hawaiian version of Karaage, although the flavors and texture is very unique. This is also a good starter Hawaiian recipe because it is authentic, easy, and the ingredients aren’t difficult to find.
NOTE: I’m using the term “Hawaiian” rather loosely. When using this term, I’m referring to foods that are common, and often unique, to the Hawaiian islands. These are not necessarily authentic Pacific Islander (Hawaiian American) dishes.
2 lbs chicken thighs or breasts – I highly recommend thighs because they cook faster and are tastier. However, if you are health conscious or fat-sensitive like I am, use breasts and cut them in half (essentially butterfly them, but don’t leave the two halves attached to each other).
4 tbsp mochiko flour – This will be the hardest ingredient to find, but you can get it at any local asian grocery store. There are several different types of mochiko, make sure you buy one actually called “Mochiko” (not dango-ko for example).
4 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (optional)
1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
I realize it’s a long list; but I promise, this recipe is easy. FYI, I’ve slightly tweaked the original. Start by mixing the sugar, soy sauce, garlic, eggs, ginger, green onion, and sesame seeds in a bowl.
Place the chicken in a seal-able, leak-proof container and pour the soy sauce mixture over top. Seal the container, shake thoroughly, and then put it in the fridge to marinate. You will marinate the chicken for at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours (for example, if you marinate overnight).
After the chicken has marinated and when you are preparing to start cooking, add the cornstarch and mochiko. Again, thoroughly mix this (I usually shake the container vigorously).
Allow the chicken to sit in the mochiko mixture for 10 minutes while you heat your pan. Heat a pan on medium-high heat filled with oil 1 inch deep. You will know the oil is hot if you add a drop of water and it pops back at you. Now, you are ready to start cooking.
Place one of the pieces of chicken in the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may be able to add two pieces; but DO NOT CROWD the pan. Your chicken should not be touching another piece.
Cook the chicken on one side until it turns a deep golden brown, then flip.
Finally, when the chicken is brown on both sides, place it on a drying rack to drip. Some of the oil will drip off while the chicken rests. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut through the biggest part to make sure all the pink is gone.
I rarely have issues with this chicken being under-cooked after frying, but you can put it in the oven to finish cooking at 350 degrees. Cut the chicken into strips and serve hot or cold; it’s delicious either way! Tada, you’ve made your first authentic Hawaiian meal.