Sunday, July 7, 2013

At Home: Huli Huli Chicken

Hawaii's own version of barbecued chicken, known as Huli Huli Chicken, is cooked with a marinade made with brown sugar, soy sauce, fresh ginger and more.  The chicken is typically cooked between two grills which have to be flipped over or turned. And since "huli" is the Hawaiian word for "turn", thus was born the name Huli Huli Chicken.  Keith never had this chicken when we were in Hawaii, so we decided to make it At Home.

Huli Huli Chicken
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • Huli Huli marinade
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • ¼ teasp ginger paste
  • ¼ teasp garlic powder

- In a large bowl, mix marinade ingredients together.
- Reserve 3 Tbsp of the marinade for basting.
- Marinate chicken at least 1 hour up to overnight in refrigerator by placing chicken into the bowl with the sauce and then covering it with plastic wrap.
- Grill chicken for 20 minutes on medium-high heat, turning frequently and using reserved sauce to baste the meat.
- Flip chicken and continue to baste and cook meat through for another 5 to 10 minutes on indirect low heat.

Roadside stand selling Huli Huli chicken.
You can still buy Huli Huli-style chicken in the Islands, practically anywhere you see billows of great-smelling smoke emanating from a large roadside grill.  I remember from my middle school days, parents would gather at a local park to cook up Huli Huli chicken as a fundraiser for our school events.  There are variations of "huli-ing" - either rotisserie style or simply flat on the grill and keep turning by hand.  Also, marinade recipes can differ, but most are consistent with the base of brown sugar, soy sauce, and ginger.  If you forget to reserve some marinade for basting, you can reuse the leftover sauce from the bowl.  Just be sure to cook meat 15 minutes after final time you baste, to kill any food-borne bacteria.

Our chicken came out tender and the sauce was incredible.  Not too sweet and not too tangy like other barbeque sauces.  Keith was really pleased and I felt nostalgic - I nailed this marinade and it tasted just like I remember from when I was a kid.  Our chicken thighs had the skin on, which the marinade stuck to and caramelized a bit.  Next time, I might remove the skin.  You can use white breast meat if you don't like thighs, but the darker meat holds up a little better to the high heat.  This chicken goes great with rice or macaroni salad.  Try it at your next backyard luau party!
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