Sunday, July 27, 2014

How Hawaiian is Hawaiian Chicken?

I keep seeing recipes being posted on food sites or Facebook for "Hawaiian Chicken", but the Asian influences are so obviously strong...teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, Thai chiles. Then there are those strictly American add-ins such as bottled barbecue sauce or ketchup...ketchup! How Hawaiian is ketchup!?!

The closest recipe I could find for an authentic Hawaiian recipe was for "Huli Huli Chicken" ("huli" means "turn" in Hawaiian) and the chicken is cooked on a grill.  The recipe for "Huli Huli Chicken" was invented by Ernest Morgado; he cooked this version of teriyaki chicken for a group of farmers in 1955. This became a Hawaiian staple, served with sticky rice, ever since.   Even then, the ingredients for the sauce are ginger, garlic, teriyaki or soy sauce, ketchup and brown sugar.

So, to make my version of "Hawaiian Chicken", I decided to go with tastes more associated with that state: coconut and pineapple, and a mixture of Asian influenced ingredients to complete the recipe.  The first time I made it, well it tasted good, but something was obviously missing.  A friend of mine agreed and suggested some heat, so the Thai chiles were added in.  Whenever I can get fresh Thai chiles, I either freeze them or dry them; then I have them available whenever they're needed.  If you cannot find them, use fresh whole cayenne peppers, dried and crushed, or ground.  The other change I made from most recipes is cooking the chicken in a crock pot, instead of on a grill or in the oven.

 Hawaiian Chicken with Rice

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, excess fat removed
4 large red bell peppers
2 whole Thai Chiles, stems removed (whole cayenne chiles can be substituted or 1/8 tsp ground per chile needed)
2 large onions
1 jar (10 oz) La Choy Sweet and Sour Duck Sauce
1 fresh pineapple
1 container (11.1 oz) Vita CoCo Pure Coconut Water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups white rice




Spray the interior of a 6 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; layer chicken inside.

Remove stem, seeds and white pith from the bell peppers; cut into one inch strips, then into one inch chucks; layer on top of chicken with the chiles.  Remove skin and roots from onions, cut into one inch chunks; layer on top of peppers.  Pour the Duck sauce over all.



Clean the pineapple, cut into one inch spears, then into one inch chunks and spread out over ingredients in crock pot.  Pour the coconut water and soy sauce over all; put on cooking lid, set on low and cook for 6 hours.  If whole chiles used, remove and discard.


Ladle 4 cups of liquid from crock pot to medium saucepan, bring to a boil on high heat.  Stir in rice, turn heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 - 25 minutes.  Turn off heat, uncover, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

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