Righteous Bird, Bruddah

One will get you fifty that’s verbatim, the exact response Hawaiian cook Ernest Morgado received when he first prepared this dish for locals back in the Fifties.  It was his take on teriyaki chicken, an old island favorite, marinated first in pineapple juice (among other things) to tenderize the meat and to add a flavorful tropical burst.

Eventually,  Morgado’s culinary inspiration came to be known by its current name, Huli Huli Chicken.  Huli Huli is Hawaiian for, “Turn, Turn” and describes precisely how the chicken is cooked.  As mentioned, it’s soaked first in an aromatic blend of soy sauce, pineapple juice, ginger, garlic, scallions, ketchup, sherry and brown sugar.  After the poultry has had a chance to absorb all those vivid flavors, it meets the flames.

That’s where the “huli” comes in.  Far from sitting idly, the chicken is turned every few minutes and is basted each time with some of the marinade, developing a lacquered, crispy skin along the way.  (NB: I prepared a double-recipe of the marinade, using half to brine the chicken and reserving the other half in a separate container for later basting.  When the chicken hit the grill I discarded the marinade that had soaked the raw chicken and used the fresh reserve to drizzle over the bird while it cooked. It likely wouldn’t have been an issue, but better to be safe…)

This produces an amazing depth of flavor, the pineapple a glistening island sunset and the soy sauce hinting of the sultry tropical night to follow.     The ginger, garlic and scallions made productive use of their marinating time too, infusing the poultry with a subtle bite, which the sweeter elements soften.  The constant basting crisps the skin, as mentioned, sealing in the juices, making the chicken succulent and tender.

Allrecipes.com featured this dish, and their recipe appears below.



Huli Huli Chicken

  • 2 (3-pound) chickens, each cut into eight pieces (*1)
  • 1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, crushed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Combine remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Place the chicken in a plastic sealable bag and pour in marinade to cover (*2).  Squeeze out all the air and seal the bag.  Massage the marinade into the chicken and refrigerate for at least four hours, to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (*3).  Place the chicken in a single layer on a broiler pan and put in oven, turning every ten minutes and basting with marinade.  Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, until the juices run clear.



1 – Or, easier yet, just buy a couple 3-pound “Pick of the Chix” packages.

2 – As suggested earlier, you may want to double all the ingredients above except the chicken, allowing you to reserve half the marinade in a separate container and giving you security of knowing your basting liquid is “pristine” (i.e., uncontaminated).  Probably unnecessary, but you never know.

3 – I have a grill, so  I used it instead on a conventional oven.  It produces better flavor and texture, so why not?  Especially as yesterday was exceptionally nice around here.  Anyway, I grilled over indirect heat, to prevent flare-ups.

4 – When the chicken was nearly done grilling, I splashed it with some mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine) and threw some on the flame as well and immediately closed the lid.  This schvitzed the chicken with mirin steam; a  nice finishing touch, I thought.


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