Authentic Hawaiian Fried Chicken in New York City
Mochiko chicken takes its name from the sweet rice flour batter the poultry is fried in
When Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, Chinese and Korean immigrants started to make Hawaii their home, their traditions, culture and favorite ingredients arrived with them. One of the ingredients that made the journey to the Aloha State was mochiko, a sweet rice flour that’s made from short-grain rice. Gluten-free and high in starch, mochiko, which is also known as glutinous rice flour, is used in Asian recipes for everything from dumplings to baked goods.
In Hawaii, the sweet rice flour is used to make a karaage-adjacent dish that’s become known as mochiko chicken thanks to the main ingredient in the batter that the poultry is fried in. Extra crispy outside and juicy on the inside, mochiko chicken is commonly found alongside rice, macaroni salad, kimchi and sweet potatoes as one of the protein options in the Hawaiian plate lunches that are commonly served at fast-casual restaurants and roadside stands.
In New York City’s East Village, mochiko chicken can be found at noreetuh, executive chef Chung Chow’s Michelin-recognized Hawaiian restaurant. A native Hawaiian, Chow marinates his chicken in a gluten-free mixture that includes soy sauce, garlic, ginger, onion and (drinkable) sake.
“Most people make fried chicken in buttermilk and other spices. Ours is marinated in a soy base, so it’s sweeter than normal and a little more umami driven, so to speak,” he says. “The garlic and onion give it even more sweetness and pungency. It’s not your traditional fried chicken. It stays juicy and the starch gives it more of a crisp versus a crunch.”
Though Chow doesn’t have strong memories of seeking out mochiko chicken from his childhood, he felt it was important to put it on the menu at noreetuh because fried chicken is usually a crowd-pleaser. “I wanted to have fried chicken to give the people what they want,” he says. “Chicken is a protein that is widely accessible, and it’s just tasty. Everyone likes it. There’s nothing off-putting about it, and it’s affordable. Putting fried chicken on the menu that I can connect to and is part of where I’m from just made sense.”
Chow’s mochiko chicken is savory and sweeter than most Westernized versions, representative of his attempt to provide customers with an authentic Hawaiian experience that has nothing to do with hula dresses or tiki drinks.
“We try to offer a modern take on Hawaiian cuisine in this restaurant,” Chow says. “I think it can be a challenge to convey the ideas and thoughts we are trying to offer to our guests. Very few people have an idea of what a modern Hawaiian restaurant is. When you say Hawaiian cuisine, what comes to mind? We try to offer some of that stereotype, but at the same time offer a menu that is modern, interesting and different. Whether you’ve been to Hawaii or not, we want to convey to people that this is Hawaii’s take on chicken.”
Mochiko Fried Chicken
Prep Time: 130 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hrs 35 mins
Servings: Eight pieces
- For the Marinade
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sake (dry sake for drinking, not the ones labeled for cooking)
- 6 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tbsp. fresh ginger
- For the Chicken
- One 2.5-3 lb. whole chicken, cut into eight pieces (substitute thighs, legs or wings if desired)
- 1 lb. Mochiko flour (sweet glutinous rice flour)
- Neutral oil for frying (canola, soy, cottonseed, corn, etc.)
Place all the marinade ingredients into a blender, and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Cut whole chicken into eight pieces, place into a zip-top bag and pour marinade into bag. Massage gently to ensure an even coating of the marinade with all pieces of the chicken. Remove excess air from the bag, then zip it to close. Place in the refrigerator for about two hours, or overnight.
Pour oil into large pot or Dutch oven, and bring up to 350 degrees using a candy or fryer thermometer to check the temperature.
Pour mochiko flour into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Take chicken out of the zip-top bag, shaking off excess marinade and place into bowl with the flour. Toss chicken around the flour to coat well, moving from one piece of chicken to another.
Fry chicken in oil, a few pieces at a time, making sure it has enough room in the oil to fry properly. Fry time varies depending on the size of the chicken, but it usually takes about eight minutes. Remove from oil, and allow to drain on a rack.
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