How To Make a Sweet and Crispy Hawaiian Fried Chicken

From fragrant garlic chicken to sweet mochiko chicken, Hawaii is a fantastic place for fried poultry. At first glance, many of these dishes resemble Japanese fried chicken (karaage) as both styles feature bite-sized pieces of dark meat chicken often marinated in soy and ginger. However, Hawaiian fried chicken is unique, a creation of the island’s rich blend of cultures and cuisines.

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Hawaiian Mochiko Fried Chicken

(By Chef Sean Andrade of AWG Private Chefs)

Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is a private chef from Maui Hawaii and specializes in Hawaiian fusion cuisine. He has cooked for Fortune 500 executives, celebrities, and sports figures.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. organic/free range boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup, glutinous rice flour (mochiko flour)
  • 4 tbsp, cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp, onion powder
  • 1 ¾ tbsp, Hawaiian sea salt
  • ½ cup, granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp, cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup, Aloha Gold shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp, minced garlic
  • 1 tsp, Chinese 5 spice
  • 5 extra large eggs
  • 1 tsp, white pepper
  • Ground oil or shortening for Frying.

Method:

  1. In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, shoyu, onion powder, salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne, garlic, 5 spice, and eggs. Whisk until completely combined.
  2. Cut the chicken either into 2-inch cubes, or leave whole. Add the chicken to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for a minimum of 5 hours.
  3. Heat oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry your chicken for 3-6 minutes, or until reaching a temperature of 165 F with an instant read thermometer. Fry in small batches to prevent the oil from dropping the temperature too fast.
  4. Hold the chicken on a sheet tray on a wire rack in the oven at 170 F until ready to be served. Serve with two scoops of mac salad, a scoop of white rice, and say aloha!

Hawaiian Fried Chicken (Bone-In)

(By Chef MiJin Toride of LINEAGE Restaurant in Wailea, Hawaii)

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Chef MiJin Kang Toride is the new executive chef of Lineage, taking the reins from Chef Sheldon Simeon of Top Chef. She has cooked at Terra in St. Helena (where she was mentored by Chef Hiro Sone), Morimoto in Napa, Ame at the San Francisco St. Regis, and Ka’ana Kitchen in Maui. Her food combines the flavors of her grandmother’s kitchen and she creates dishes that focus on Chinese and Korean inspired cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, broken down into breasts, thighs, and drumsticks (3 1/2-4 lbs.)
  • 2 tbsp, garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp, soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp, sugar
  • ½ cup, tapioca starch
  • ½ cup, corn starch
  • 1 cup, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp, salt
  • 1 tsp, garlic powder
  • 1 tsp, smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp, water
  • Oil (amount will depend on vessel used to fry)

Method:

  1. Add chicken, garlic, soy, sugar in a bowl and marinate for at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, put together dry ingredients without water in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Once flour and spices are mixed, add two tablespoons of water and create small clumps within dredge.
  3. When the chicken is ready, heat your oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oil is heating, take each piece of chicken and coat it with dredge and move to a sheet pan to prepare for frying.
  4. Once oil is ready, gently put the chicken pieces into the fryer and fry for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 F.
  5. Let rest for 4-5 minutes and fry one more time for that extra crispiness! Serve while hot with your choice of sides and enjoy.

The Seasoning

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The majority of Hawaiian fried chicken recipes feature Asian flavor profiles. Hawaii food culture is an intoxicating blend of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, American and native island cuisine.

The Japanese influence in Hawaiian cuisine is particularly strong. Since the 19th century, Japanese people have been immigrating to Hawaii as agricultural workers. Today, about 14% of Hawaii has Japanese ancestry. This Japanese influence can be seen in many Hawaiian dishes, ranging from the soy seasoning of poke to Hawaiian style teriyaki and bentos.

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One of the best examples of Japanese culinary influence is mochiko chicken, which heavily resembles Japanese karaage. However, there are several key differences. The biggest element is the use of mochiko flour in the batter. Mochiko flour is made from glutinous rice (sticky rice) and is the same ingredient used to make sweet mochi balls. The use of mochiko flour along with sugar in the batter and marinade gives mochiko chicken a distinctive sweet flavor very different from karaage.

Accompaniments

Popular plate lunch restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii. rainbowdrivein/instagram

The most common way to eat Hawaiian fried chicken is in a “plate lunch.” This style originated in the lunch culture of Hawaiian pineapple and sugar plantation workers. Originally, most of these workers brought their own lunch. Because most of these workers were Asian immigrants, their food primarily consisted of rice and other Asian dishes. Eventually, a series of enterprising food businesses, called lunch wagons, grew to feed this community. These businesses served food on paper plates, leading to the term “plate lunch.”

The food that appears on a plate lunch can be very diverse. Because of the various Asian heritages in Hawaii, anything from mochiko chicken, Filipino pork adobo, Japanese katsu, Chinese barbecue and hamburger patties drenched in gravy can be found on a plate lunch. However, the staple of every plate lunch is white rice and a rich mayonnaise-laden macaroni salad. Most of the time, these carbs will be ladled with an ice cream scoop (typically, two scoops of rice and one scoop of mac salad).