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Mochiko Chicken

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Mochiko Chicken is a popular Hawaii dish of chicken marinated in a mochiko flour batter and deep fried! It's crunchy, sweet, and salty. Perfect with rice and mac salad. 

Mochiko chicken, right out of the fryer

You can think of mochiko chicken is Hawaii's version of popcorn chicken (it is even more delicious). Chicken is marinated overnight and fried golden.

Mochiko chicken with fried saimin at Shiro's Saimin Haven (Oahu)

What Is Mochiko Chicken?

Mochiko Chicken is local style fried chicken named for two main components:

The mochiko flour is used to make a marinade for the chicken (detail below). It's this specific flour that gives mochiko chicken that signature taste and flavor.

The bite-size chicken pieces are juicy with a thin, crisp shell that has the slightest sticky-chew (thanks to the mochiko flour).

Like saimin, Spam musubi, and shave ice, mochiko chicken is part of the local culture. We all grew up eating it...and we still keep eating it!

Mochiko chicken plate lunch from Pioneer Saloon in Honolulu (Oahu)

Mochiko Chicken In Hawaii

There are so many places in Hawaii that serve mochiko chicken. Mochiko chicken is typically served "plate lunch style" which means it comes with rice and mac salad. Here's where we go:

Mochiko chicken at Ethel's Grill

  • Ethel's Grill (Oahu)  - This is the classic, done perfectly with good crunch. Ethel's even serves the mochiko chicken with ponzu sauce on the side. Pro tip: make sure to also order the tataki sashimi.
  • Shiro's Saimin Haven (Oahu) - Shiro's serves mochiko chicken over a bed of fried saimin...best of both worlds!
  • Pioneer Saloon (Oahu) - The mochiko chicken plate comes with rice and pasta salad (mac salad is the classic side but they serve it with a great pasta salad).
  • Mitsu-Ken Okazu (Oahu) - They technically make garlic chicken, but it's similar to mochiko chicken, only all glaze-y and garlicky.
  • Tanioka's (Oahu) - You can order mochiko chicken as a plate lunch or as a mochiko chicken musubi! Check out this musubi photo below...

Mochiko chicken musubi from Tanioka's in Waipahu (Oahu)

Check out the mochiko chicken musubi from Tanioka's! They cut the chicken into a bigger, flatter piece so that it can be layered over rice like Spam musubi.

What Is Mochiko Flour?

Mochiko flour is a sweet rice flour made from glutinous rice. "Glutinous" doesn't mean the rice has gluten, it just refers to the fact that it is sticky rice.

Mochiko flour is the main ingredient in recipes like Butter Mochi (another Hawaii classic!) and Mochiko Chicken. This makes a good portable lunch/snack.

My Mochiko Flour Pick:

We use mochiko flour often and can find it at most Hawaii supermarkets. On the mainland, you can find mochiko flour at Asian supermarkets, or order online.

Note: there is no good substitute for mochiko flour, please use mochiko flour for this recipe.

Now let's take a look at how to make mochiko chicken...

Mochiko chicken is also so good for snacking ^_^

Ingredients

The full/formal recipe is at the bottom of the post but I like to have this "method" section where I can explain the recipe in more detail.

Gather together all the ingredients:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs - I cut the chicken into 1-inch bite size pieces, you can go bigger or smaller, it's personal preference.
  • Mochiko Flour - Use only mochiko flour and do not substitute any other type of flour.
  • Cornstarch
  • Sugar
  • Soy Sauce
  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Garlic - Feel free to double up on the garlic if you like it real garlicky
  • Green Onions - Green onions are optional, but add a nice touch, especially when some of the bits get deep fried along with the chicken...you can see some speckles of green.

Steps to marinating the chicken. Clockwise from top-left: combine the marinade ingredients, mix well, add the chicken, pour into a bag and let marinate at least 8 hours in the fridge

Step by Step Directions

Now we start cooking!

Chop up the chicken and then put that on the side.

Then you get a big mixing bowl. Put all the other ingredients into the bowl. This includes the mochiko flour, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, eggs, salt, garlic, and green onions. Use a whisk to mix it well.

Once it's all mixed, add the chicken into the bowl and use a spoon (or your hand) to make sure all the chicken pieces are well coated.

You can cover the mixing bowl and put it straight in the fridge to marinate overnight (or at least 8 hours). Or you can pour it all into a ziploc bag and stick that bag in the fridge.

I prefer the ziploc bag because it frees up my mixing bowl and uses less fridge space.

Deep frying mochiko chicken in my small pot 

The next day, you take the chicken out of the fridge and get ready to fry. I used to be terrified of deep frying, but it's just something we have to get used to, especially when mochiko chicken cravings hits hard.

I use a small pot and fill it 1-inch high with vegetable oil. The upside of using a small pot is that you use less oil. The downside is that you have to fry in multiple batches (I don't mind doing this). I just don't like having lots of leftover oil because we don't deep fry often.

Turn the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot enough, you can start frying. Each round takes about 6 minutes. You want to get the chicken really nice and golden. So crisp, so good!

Line a plate with paper towels and let the chicken cool off there.

Eat while it's still warm, ideally with rice and mac salad on the side.

Mochiko chicken musubi from Tanioka's in Waipahu (Oahu)

Mochiko Chicken Variations

Many options:

  • You can make "giant mochi crunch" mochiko chicken. Do this by wrapping a 1-inch wide strip of nori (seaweed) around a piece of the marinated chicken (this might take some practice). Then deep fry and eat. Where does the name come from? The finished mochiko chicken looks like a giant piece of mochi crunch!
  • You can cut the chicken into bigger or smaller pieces. Adjust frying time accordingly.
  • Instead of eating mochiko chicken with a bowl of rice, try make mochiko chicken musubi (like Spam Musubi, but with a big piece of mochiko chicken in place of Spam).

Baked Mochiko Chicken Dreams

I'm still searching for a baked mochiko chicken recipe. I don't love to deep fry at home, so a great baked mochiko chicken has been a long dream.

I've gone through three baked mochiko chicken recipes (and lots of chicken). Haven't found an ideal solution. Will update this post when I do.

Mochiko Chicken Recipe

Recipe below ^_^

Tray of Mochiko Chicken

Mochiko Chicken

Yield: Lunch/dinner for 3
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 25 minutes

This is Hawaii's version of popcorn chicken! Marinate chicken overnight in a mochiko flour batter, then deep fry till crisp and golden.

Ingredients

Instructions

    1. Chop the chicken into 1-inch, bite-size pieces.
    2. Mix all the other ingredients (mochiko flour, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, eggs, salt, garlic, and green onions) together in a bowl.
    3. Add the chicken to the bowl and marinate overnight (or at least 8 hours) in fridge.
    4. Fill a small pot 1" high with vegetable oil. Deep fry on medium-high heat until the chicken is crisp and golden brown. This takes about 6 minutes. Eat with rice ^_^
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