One of the biggest questions I always get is, "What is Hawaiian food like?" It's a simple enough question, but one that may carry with it a variety of explanations. If you want to know more, then this post in the "Cooking Hawaiian-style Comfort Food" series is for you.
For starters, "Hawaiian food" in the strictest sense is just a small part of what makes up the local food we eat in Hawaii today. When locals say Hawaiian food, they are specifically referring to dishes that are of Native Hawaiian origin.
However, like the Pidgin English that we speak, our modern Hawaiian cuisine is also made up of a blend of cultures that combined cooking styles during the past hundred years or more.
More like a harmonious blend of various regional cooking styles, often times the dishes that we eat in Hawaii today are different from the ones they originated from. For example, it's not uncommon to find a bento* that has Korean chicken, Portuguese sausage and Filipino hotdogs all served on one lunch plate.
Since home-cooked local kine grinds is truly the food of my heart, I've decided to share with you some recipes from the kitchens of Hawaii.
To start things off, here is a simple and easy classic called "Shoyu Chicken." I've taken the basic recipe and given you my spin on it.
*From the Japanese loan word, bento is Pidgin for a "boxed lunch"
JR's Easy Kine Shoyu Chicken
*See the history of the dish below
The Story Behind Shoyu Chicken
Shoyu chicken is Hawaii's take on Japanese-style teriyaki. Hailing back to the early plantation days when Japanese workers would place steamed rice and leftover meat in a bento box and take it with them to the fields, the roots of this dish go back for generations in Hawaii.
Every kitchen has it's own recipe with differing ingredients, but the one key ingredient that stays the same is shoyu. Shoyu is the Pidgin word for soy sauce and, like the dish, we got this word from the Japanese immigrants. You will never hear a local say 'soy sauce', in Hawaii it is always shoyu.
There are many different types of shoyu, one of which is Kikkoman. I prefer a shoyu created by and made for locals in Hawaii called Aloha Shoyu. That really is the name for it. It has a slight sweetness to it that counters the typical saltiness of shoyu.
Everyone has their own combination of shoyu, liquid and sweetener. Some people use sugar, honey or guava juice for sweetener. I prefer brown cane sugar. Others will add rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, sake, cilantro, Chinese Five Spice, star anise, etc, it's always up to the chef.
The important thing to remember with this dish is that there is no one way to do it, it's simply done to taste. So try cooking the recipe above and play with it! Taste it while it's simmering and from time to time, add more water to cut the salt, more brown sugar to up the sweet, or more alcohol to give it a kick.
Main ting, no foget da shoyu yah!
Check out these books for more Hawaii recipe ideas:
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...