Of all the recipes we cook when we're missing Hawaii, Shoyu Chicken is heaviest in rotation. Not to say we don't adore Haupia Pie or savor Saimin, but Shoyu Chicken is a recipe that works as well for a weeknight meal as it does for feeding a crowd. It helps that most of the recipe uses pantry ingredients we almost always have on hand.
So we're all on the same page, let's cover our bases. Shoyu Chicken is local recipe found in Hawaii where chicken is simmered together with shoyu and sugar, and a variety of flavorings that are most commonly ginger, garlic, and chiles. The dish is named after shoyu, which is the Japanese style of soy sauce that is rounder and sweeter than the Chinese style and made with a mix of soy and wheat.
Like so much local food in Hawaii, it's has basis in the plantation era when immigrant groups worked and cooked together. Since sugar was one of the main crops (along with pineapple), a lot of dishes call for it.
Shoyu Chicken is one of the classic options you'll find when you order a plate lunch. FYI, a plate lunch is a local meal found in Hawaii that's akin to a bento or a Southern meat and threes where there is a meat element, rice, and local style mac salad.
As such, you'll find Shoyu Chicken everywhere from classic plate lunch spots to fundraisers and roadside stands. And, since locals like to get together in big crowds to hang, it often makes an appearance in homes since it's no fuss and can easily feed a crowd.
It must be said that Shoyu Chicken is not Teriyaki Chicken (aka "Teri Chicken" in Hawaii), which is why you'll often see both listed on a menu. They are indeed very similar seeing as they both have soy sauce and sugar but they are different. Where Teri Chicken often adds in sake or mirin, is often grilled or broiled, and has the sauce reduced to a glaze, Shoyu Chicken doesn't have alcohol, adds in ginger, garlic, and chiles, is simmered, and the sauce is spoonable and not a glaze.
It's a subtle but distinct difference. Bottom line, if you're traveling to Hawaii and want more charred soy flavor, go for Teri Chicken; or, for more slow-cooked flavor, go for Shoyu Chicken.
Before you start cooking, here are a few key tips to making Shoyu Chicken:
That's it! Go ahead and scroll down for the full Shoyu Chicken recipe.
or a mix of the two
or a mix of half honey half brown sugar
top cut off
halved lengthwise (optional)
peeled, halved, and cut into half moon shapes
for garnish (optional)
for garnish (optional)
To Cook The Shoyu Chicken: Combine the water or broth and soy sauce with the sugar and/or honey in a large pot, bring to a boil over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, onion and chicken then reduce to low. Simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is fork tender and garlic cloves easily pop out of the head of garlic, about 45 minutes more.
To Serve The Shoyu Chicken: Remove chicken to a serving platter. Remove ginger, garlic, jalapenos, and onions and set aside . Bring sauce to a boil, skim off excess fat, and cook until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add chicken and other ingredients back to the sauce and turn to coat.
Serve chicken over rice with a spoonful of sauce, any of the garlic, jalapeno, or onions you'd like as well some sliced green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.
If you want the sauce to be more of a glaze (which isn't traditional but is good), do the following: whisk together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with water then, once you've reduced the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes, whisk in teh cornstack and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils for 30 seconds, remove it from the heat then proceed.
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