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Shoyu Chicken

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Shoyu Chicken is a popular local dish found at many restaurants in Hawaii. It is easy to make at home with basic pantry ingredients like shoyu, sugar, and garlic...here's the step by step photo recipe.

Shoyu chicken, ready to eat (with rice, of course!)

What Is Shoyu Chicken?

Shoyu Chicken is made from shoyu (also called soy sauce) and chicken.

The chicken is browned and then cooked over low heat in a mixture of shoyu, sugar, water, and rice vinegar. We add a little garlic and ginger for flavor.

It's an easy, no fuss dish that is made in one pot/pan. You can make the recipe as is, double and even triple (we have some big families in Hawaii!)

You'll want to eat shoyu chicken with rice (we get rice from The Rice Factory). Why? Because this dish is saucy, and the rice soaks up all that sauce so good. Pair it with a scoop of mac salad, and you have a classic local-style lunch.

The cooking liquid includes: shoyu, sugar, water, and rice vinegar

Shoyu versus Soy Sauce

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Shoyu and soy sauce are the same thing. But in Hawaii (and in Japan), we call it shoyu.

The two most popular brands of shoyu in Hawaii is Aloha Shoyu (less salty) and Kikkoman Shoyu (more salty). For this recipe, I like to use Kikkoman Shoyu.

My Shoyu Pick:

You can get the big Kikkoman shoyu online or at Costco Hawaii. The local markets and drugstores like Longs Drugs and even 7-Eleven Hawaii carries the smaller size.

Shoyu is useful in so many local recipes from Spam Musubi to Tofu Poke and even Furikake Chex Mix!

This is what the chicken skin should look like after browning.

Bone-In versus Boneless Chicken Thighs

We prefer to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe for two main reasons:

  • Because we are slow braising it, the bone and skin keep the chicken meat tender.
  • The chicken skin, especially when it soaks up all that shoyu-ginger-garlic sauce, is so delicious!

If you are feeling extra lazy (or just don't like dealing with skin and bones), you can use boneless chicken thighs, just reduce the cooking time by half. That way you don't get overcooked chicken.

After adding in the shoyu mixture, garlic, and ginger.

Where To Eat Shoyu Chicken

You can get shoyu chicken at many casual restaurants and takeout spots all over Hawaii. Shoyu chicken is most often served as a plate lunch with white rice and scoop of mac salad. A few of our go-to places include: 

  • Rainbow Drive-In (Oahu) - A popular plate lunch spot near Waikiki. This place was always a favorite among locals (especially for a post-surf/hike lunch) but got extra famous after a visit from Obama. Other good eats here include the chili dog plate and strawberry slush float.
  • Zippy's (Oahu, Maui, Big Island) - With many locations across multiple islands, Zippy's is Hawaii's 24 hour local diner. From Portuguese Bean Soup to Lau Lau and Andagi, you can find nearly all the popular local dishes here.
  • Diamond Head Grill (Oahu) - Located on a fun stretch of Monsarrat Avenue with lots of other good local eats. There are just a few tables located out front, so it's best to come during an off hour (or take it back to your home/hotel to eat). Be careful, the birds are aggressive here. Don't forget to stop by the attached bakery/market next door for pumpkin crunch dessert

Ginger, garlic, and green onions (optional)

How To Make Shoyu Chicken

These are the ingredients you'll need:

  • 2 pounds skin on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 4 pieces)
  • 1/2 cup shoyu
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks green onions (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Note: This recipe is very easy to double or even triple (the leftovers taste even better over the next few days). Just make sure to keep the 1:1:1 ratio of shoyu, sugar, and water. I also like to add a ton of extra garlic and ginger when making it for myself. 

The finished plate of Shoyu Chicken on rice!

Here are the steps:

  1. Over medium-high heat, brown chicken (skin-side down) in a saucepan. Brown for 5 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden color.
  2. Mix together in a bowl: shoyu, sugar, water, and rice vinegar. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken in the sauce pan.
  3. Add in the smashed garlic and sliced ginger. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn back down to low heat. Put on a lid and let the chicken simmer (skin side up) for 10 minutes. 
  4. Lift the lid. Turn the chicken skin-side down, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove chicken onto a plate. Reduce the sauce over medium heat until thick (like the thickness of honey).
  5. Serve the chicken over a big bowl of rice. Finish with chopped green onions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and drizzle on the sauce. It's onolicious!

Printable recipe below ^_^

Shoyu Chicken

Shoyu Chicken

Yield: Serves two
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Shoyu Chicken is a popular local Hawaii dish that is found at many restaurants in Hawaii. It is also easy to make at home with basic pantry ingredients. It's a simple, comforting meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 4 pieces)
  • 1/2 cup shoyu
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks green onions (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

    1. Over medium-high heat, brown chicken (skin-side down) in a saucepan. Brown for 5 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden color. 
    2. Mix together in a bowl: shoyu, sugar, water, and rice vinegar. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken in the sauce pan. 
    3. Add in the smashed garlic and sliced ginger. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn back down to low heat. Put on a lid and let the chicken simmer (skin side up) for 10 minutes. 
    4. Lift the lid. Turn the chicken skin-side down, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove chicken onto a plate. Reduce the sauce over medium heat until thick (like the thickness of honey). 
    5. Serve the chicken over a big bowl of rice. Finish with chopped green onions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and drizzle on the sauce. It's onolicious ^_^

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Mahalo for Reading!

Brent

Thursday 26th of March 2020

"...easy to make at home with basic pantry ingredients" - perfect for the current situation we find ourselves in. Thanks for this, will give it a shot. Be safe!

Kathy Chan

Thursday 26th of March 2020

Yes, exactly! This was one of the few things I could make without having to go to the market. Hope you are staying safe as well, Brent ^_^