Citizens, today’s post is part 2 of a list of recipes from Hawaii, Guam and Micronesia – all 4 locales where my cousin Stephen Levine has lived or spent time throughout his eventful life chasing waves, protecting the innocent as an Attorney and documenting beauty through his camera as an artist. Stephen has lived on both Kauai and Maui and in fact lives today on the shoulder of Mount Haleakala! His love of the Aloha spirit and his adopted home inspired my choice for today’s recipe, for a true taste of the Islands – I speak of nothing less than the fire-kissed magnificence that alone is huli-huli chicken!
Now, before you dive into this recipe, know that you are going to have to make some Hawaiian chili pepper water, which is the post I made just before this one – it’s easy enough to prepare, but you need to create it at least 1-2 weeks before attempting THIS recipe as it needs that long to age properly and develop all of its potent flavors! Once accomplished, that particular condiment is damned near immortal stashed in the fridge, only gets spicier as it sits and will stand ever-vigilant to add a needed boost of spice to anything you might normally add Tabasco or any other hot sauce to!
Now, with all that out of the way – let’s talk about huli-huli chicken! 🙂
Huli-huli chicken is a grilled chicken dish in Hawaiian cuisine, prepared by barbecuing a chicken over mesquite wood, and basting it with a sweet huli-huli sauce. In 1954, Ernest Morgado, a naval intelligence officer during World War II, and Mike Asagi, a chicken farmer, founded the Pacific Poultry Company in ‘Ewa, Hawaii. The next year, at a meeting with farmers, Morgado and Asagi first barbecued chicken in a teriyaki-like sauce, Morgado’s mother’s recipe.
After seeing its popularity, Morgado began cooking huli-huli chicken at fundraisers. Millions of dollars have been raised over the years for charities by selling huli-huli chicken, according to Morgado’s stepson. Fundraisers at churches and schools selling huli-huli chicken were common around Hawaii for many years.
For the record, huli is the Hawaiian word for ‘turn’, and as you might expect, the hula dance name derives from this very word! As the dish was originally made on a grill with a makeshift spit, onlookers shouted “huli” when the chickens were to be rotated, cooking and basting the other side. Morgado, through the Pacific Poultry Company, trademarked ‘huli-huli’ in 1967.
Morgado became famous with his huli-huli chicken recipe. He served on the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, was appointed honorary vice consul of Portugal, and was awarded the Honolulu Portuguese Chamber of Commerce’s “Council’s Cup” in 1981. Later, beginning in 1986, Morgado bottled and sold huli-huli sauce in stores. Today, huli-huli chicken can be found around Hawaii, in restaurants, road-side stands, mini-marts and drive-ins. At many locations, chicken are cooked on racks en masse and sold to a hungry public as fast as they are made!
Sadly, Morgado never released his huli-huli sauce recipe, though other chefs have made approximations – including, of course, TFD!
Most recipes call for a glaze or sauce with ingredients including pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, honey or brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Some recipes may call for lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha or red pepper flakes, rice wine or sherry vinegar, chicken broth, white wine, or mustard. Some recipes call for brining the chicken in a solution with kosher salt, sugar, bay leaves, garlic, sesame oil, or thyme, all before marinating the chicken in the sauce. The chicken can be cooked on a grill or a rotisserie. While cooking, it is regularly basted with the glaze, and turned over (“huli-ed”). Mesquite (known as ‘kiawe’ locally) wood chips are traditionally used to add a smoky flavor.
Needless to say, huli-huli chicken is an absolute delight to eat if you love teriyaki – because huli-huli is indeed just a Hawaii-localized version of teriyaki chicken! Truly, show me the person who dislikes teriyaki and I’ll show you a person whose soul has curled up and died of gastronomic loneliness due to constantly being fed a bland diet bereft of flavor and spice alike! No member of TFD Nation shall ever be consigned to such a heinous fate, not while TFD REIGNS SUPREME!!!
As always, whilst I strive for fanatical authenticity at all times, my artist’s palette of flavor can reign creatively unchecked in this recipe since no one KNOWS the actual ingredients for huli-huli sauce! I do stick to the established basics, though I have made my version a deluxe variant worthy of all Citizens who have found themselves on this particular page of the blog!
Now – first things first: to make an authentic huli-huli chicken means you NEED to bbq the bird over live coals, ideally coals of Hawaiian Kiawe wood. Kiawe is the Hawaiian version of mesquite, and I adore its smoky goodness from both the Kiawe coals as well as some Kiawe-based liquid smoke in the glaze – you can easily purchase both from the links.
If you so prefer and want to go a less expensive but still authentic route, use mesquite liquid smoke and mesquite charcoal of the finest variety you can purchase! To complete the Kiawe flavor profile trifecta, I also call for some white Hawaiian Kiawe honey in the glaze, which you can buy from Amazon here. You can easily substitute any cream-style white honey of your choice instead.
The backbone of any good huli-huli sauce is ketchup – but please, for the love of G-d and all that is holy and true, AVOID CHEAP KETCHUP BRANDS for this (and any other) recipe. I strongly prefer and endorse only Sir Kensington’s brand of ketchup, which is what this condiment is MEANT to be – spicy, tomato-forward and with minimal sugar. You can buy it here – trust me, this will become your new favorite ketchup for all things.
Hawaii has been strongly influenced by both Japan and China throughout its history, and my recipe calls for several ingredients from both countries – some used in standard huli-huli and many that are not. First, for some spice with a kick of umami, I call for Chinese chili sauce with fermented black beans – this is a good brand that will treat your chicken right. From Japan, you of course need a top-quality sesame oil for any good teriyaki sauce – Kadoya brand is the only one I endorse and you can easily buy it from Amazon here.
The last ingredient from Nihon is a condiment rarely-seen outside of the most authentic Japanese restaurants here in the United States – I speak of nothing less than the mighty yuzu kosho, which is the grated fragrant peel of the Yuzu Citrus combined with chili and salt to provide an addictive hit of sour, spicy and salty to the sauce! A top-quality brand of green yuzu kosho (there is also a red version, but it’s not used in this recipe) may be found on Amazon here.
My Citizens – I have every confidence that you will be blown away by this magical rendition of huli-huli chicken – cousin Stephen, I hope you find it equally worthy as I do and I look forward to finally seeing you again after 35+ years once I am fully vaccinated and can travel once again! I’ll cook up a batch of this as well as the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water to accompany it and we will reminisce about the time when we were both young and ready to conquer the world together! 😀
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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