Easy Hawaiian Huli-Huli Chicken Recipe
The Money Shot
Huli = To Turn, or to Flip Over
Huli-huli Chicken is an island favorite that has been around for a long time in Hawaii. Huli in Hawaiian means to turn – which accounts for the turning of the chicken while you are cooking. If you have ever spent some time in the islands, and happened to visit a carnival, or special event, or local ball game, you may have been lucky enough to happen across a spectacle of outdoor cooking on a large scale.
There is no mistaking the aroma of Huli-huli chicken cooking over keawe logs. The distinct woodsy odor of the keawe - which is a fine source of dried cooking wood that grows in Hawaii – coupled with the many spices on the chicken will make your mouth water. Lines form as soon as the first batch is done, and usually until the last chicken is cooked. It is a hi-lite of any event because the open cooking of the chicken will actually bring more traffic. People that would have driven by, will actually smell the chicken from a mile away, and adjust their plans to include a stop over.
These large cookouts are often built with large scale grills that actually lock the chicken firmly in place so that the entire grill can be flipped. When the birds are done, the grill is opened; the birds are bagged, and promptly sold.
My recipe is quick and easy. I won’t ask you to add sherry wine, ginger, brown sugar or add pineapples just because it is a Hawaiian dish – this is sooo overdone. I won’t even ask you to get the grill out, or even have to “huli” the chicken. Prep time is fast, cooking is easy, and eating is most enjoyable. Perfect for Hawaiian transplants abroad, or for the Hawaiians at heart.
2 lbs Chicken thighs – you may use skinless/boneless, etc.
1 Tbsp Hawaiian Salt – rock sea salt (never table salt - too salty)
2 ea Garlic cloves minced (more or less to your preference)
2 Tbsp Butter or Margarine (more or less to your preference)
To Taste Paprika – sprinkle on to your preference
Hawaiian Salt and Lomi
Let’s keep things simple by determining if you will use with bone and skin, or without bone and skin. With skin will add the chicken’s natural juices and oils and add to the overall taste of the dish. Without skin, the recipe will still have the flavor and juices though not as much, but it will be much healthier. To compromise, you can have a half and half mix satisfying both ends of the spectrum. That’s the beauty of cooking – no boundaries, no black and white, no hard rules. Everything is subject to ones own particular pallet – as long as if we err, that we learn from it.
The type of cut is entirely up to you, in this case, we will proceed with the skin and bone in. I generally prefer thighs because they are juicier, and quarters are just as well. You can opt to go for the breasts, but it is often a very quick cook, and most times not as juicy as you would like it to be.
What ever chicken cut you do decide upon, rinse off, pat dry with paper towels, and place chicken in a cake size pan or glass pan.
Hawaiian salt (or sea salt crystals if not available) is key in this dish. Hawaiian salt brings out a certain taste that is unmistakable. It brings more of the taste out of a dish, so that as you chew, more flavors are emitted. Hawaiian salt will also act as a tenderizer, making meats much softer than they would have been. To lomi, means to massage, so as you sprinkle Hawaiian salt onto the chicken, you will massage the salt into the chicken. You will notice that the salt crystals will melt a bit – this is good. Take a few cloves of garlic, and mash, or mince and lomi into the chicken.
Next, the butter – I use margarine. Lomi the butter into the chicken, assuring that there is an even coating over the chicken pieces. This will bring out a nice golden brown coloring on the chicken, and enhance the flavor.
The Final Ingredient: Paprika
There are many varieties of paprika, most use bell and/or chili peppers. You may use the one that you are most comfortable with. In America we use a modest standard paprika, but in Europe, there are hotter varieties. In this recipe, the paprika is primarily used to enhance flavoring, and bring a nice color to the dish. If more of a hot spice is desired, we could add a little oil to the paprika, and heat careful and slow, and then add to chicken.
Sprinkle the paprika onto the chicken evenly on both sides so that the entire chicken is coated.
Set the Oven
Set the oven to 350 degrees, and check after half an hour. If you pick up one thing from the chef store, do yourself a favor, and pick up a meat and chicken thermometer. Once your chicken reaches 180 degrees, it’s done. Harmful bacteria are killed, and the food is safe to consume. No unsightly cuts into the chicken and you eliminate all guess work. Nobody, but nobody wants to serve chicken that is not thoroughly cooked, or suffer the embarrassment when it is returned to the kitchen.
What is that beautiful smelling aroma!
Once the chicken is in the oven, you will start to smell the aroma of all ingredients mixing and cooking together. It is absolutely fantastic and will arouse all in your household to come into the kitchen to wonder what it is that you are cooking.
You can bet that you will have an audience when it’s time to pull the Huli-huli Chicken out of the oven. You might wish to ladle some of the hot juices onto the chicken pieces just to water their pallet further.
Huli-Huli Chicken in Hawaii
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Kau Kau Time
Au'we... no mo corn? My-nah brah...get da kine...
I serve this dish with white sticky rice – or short grained rice (Mrs. Kawi prefers brown rice for a healthier alternative). Rice is recommended so that you can ladle some of the juices over the rice to keep the flavoring on an even keel. Feel free to use the rice of your choice.
Sweet corn is an excellent addition to this dish, and sort of brings the whole meal together. Mrs. Kawi assumed we had sweet corn, but we didn’t. Green beans came in handy, but that’s what it’s all about. You have to be flexible, and I encourage you to experiment with this recipe to make it your own.
Let me know how it turned out for you, or how you added your own special twist to the recipe. Love and happiness in all you do, and in all you do, have peace. Kawi.
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