Hawaiian Fried Chicken

I first encountered Hawaiian Fried chicken at Back Home Lahaina in Carson, California. A dear friend of mine and I were out on one of our foodie adventures. A native to Torrance, she'd yammered on about Lahaina's, but we'd never gone to the restaurant together having been financially restricted to L&L type Hawaiian fast food. When we did finally make it to Back Home Lahaina's, she suggested I try the Hawaiian fried chicken. When it came out, the portions were huge - big massive piles of the expected accompaniments to any Hawaiian plate - macaroni salad, a cabbage slaw with crunched up, dried ramen noodles, and white rice. And there, right amongst these starchy mountains of unbearable deliciousness, sat big, fried balls of chicken. Well what's so great about glorified chicken nuggets? Does putting "Hawaiian" in front of them make them cool? Little did I know. The first bite was bliss. Not only were these fresh and the furthest thing away from the horrid processed 'chicken' of fast food joints, the batter they had been fried in wasn't your typical southern fried chicken batter. Far from being greasy and overly salty, these little meaty nuggets were sweet. Yes. Sweet. A lovely, happy-tastebuds sweet that was a revelation. Here was a dinner entree that was sweet without being sticky or 'dessert like'.

Wow. What else is there to say? They were nommed. Boy were the nommed.

I left sunny Los Angeles in May 2007, bound for Jersey and eventually the less-than-sunny United Kingdom. I traded my lovely fresh Korean and Hawaiian bbq's for Indian curries. Which is okay, but I have been feeling a bit homesick for the yummier days. On a whim, I hopped on the wonderful inter-web and had a look around for a recipe. Turns out that Hawaiian Fried Chicken is also called Mochiko Chicken. Although I've essentially gone vegetarian and have no great passion for fried food, I figured I'd give it a whirl for nostalgia's sake. I originally tried the recipe with tofu. It worked. This time I tried it with Chicken.

The verdict? The flavor seems a little stronger than I remember. It's not as delicate. Or perhaps my palate's just gotten a bit more sensitive. Either way, this tasted less like I remembered and more like chicken fried in a teriyaki batter. Still delicious. But not exactly what I was hoping for. I may have to email Lahaina and ask if they'll share their recipe. I read somewhere that pineapple juice and peanut oil were involved. Either way, this was a passable alternative. Although, as I said, it's more a teriyaki batter than the Lahaina recipe.

Instead of using chicken legs or wings or breasts, I opted for a whole chicken which I butchered and cut into pieces at home. The carcass was donated to a friend of mine to use as stock. This was the most affordable way to make this for me. Chicken breasts on their own are hideously expensive.

And here we go -

Mochiko Chicken

2 1/2 Pounds chicken
2 eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons mochiko*
4 tablespoons cornstarch*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
oil for frying

Mix everything (except chicken and oil). Marinate chicken for 5 hours or overnight in refrigerator. This is essential as it is a flavorsome blast for the chicken itself. Fry chicken in oil until golden. Place on paper towel to drain.

If you have batter left, chuck it in your oil and fry until nice and crispy. Horrible for you, but a really tasty treat.

* If I ever do this again, I think I'll try a little more flour as I'd like a thicker batter. The batter this recipe ends up making is very wet, and I'd definitely like a little more batter on the chicken.