Mochiko chicken is Hawai‘i’s own style of fried chicken, distinct for its use of mochiko (sweet rice flour) in the batter, which lends a pleasant bouncy chew in addition to that classic fried chicken crunch. Depending on who’s cooking (and what recipe they’re using), local mochiko chicken can draw influence from Japanese karaage, Korean dak kang jung, and even a little from Southern fried chicken.
At Tin Roof, the mochiko chicken is far and away the most popular item on our menu. On a solid day, we’ll go through three hundred pounds of chicken thighs in the four hours we are open for lunch. Not bad for a place that’s only five hundred square feet.
I’ve been eating mochiko chicken since small kid time, but it wasn’t until I started cooking professionally that I got serious about cracking the code. Early on, I served a stripped-down version like what locals bring to parties and potlucks, similar to my recipe for Nori Chicken. But over time, hints and tips I picked up from that #friedchickenlife began to snowball. I started adding a dab of kochujang paste after eating some delicious spicy Korean wings. I started adding eggs to the batter after an auntie in Lahaina told me, “You should add eggs.” I started glazing the chicken with a sweet miso sauce because I recalled a takeout spot on Oahu I went to often doing that (this was during my brief stint as the world’s laziest stock boy at Party City).
Eventually, all these revelations came together to form the maximalist, ultimate, supreme version you see here, drizzled with two finishing sauces and showered with fried garlic, furikake, and mochi crunch. There are simpler mochiko recipes out there, but none of them offers the whole epic package like this one.
Last thing: Most people think the important part of fried chicken is the dredging process (get that flour into every nook and cranny), but equally crucial is letting your chicken drain on a wire rack (preferred) or paper towels after it’s fried. Air circulation is what helps create that loud shattering crust.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mochiko, ¼ cup of the cornstarch, the salt, and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, shoyu, ginger, sake, kochujang, and 2 tablespoons water. Stir this into the dry ingredients until mixed, then add the chicken and toss thoroughly with your hands to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).
- When you’re ready to fry, remove the marinated chicken from the fridge.
- Prepare a wire rack or line a baking sheet with paper towels. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet with at least 2 inches of oil, making sure to leave a few inches of clearance from the pot’s rim. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350°F (use a thermometer), adjusting the heat as needed to maintain temperature.
- While the oil is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic salt, and remaining ¾ cup cornstarch. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess batter drip off, and dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture, taking your time and making sure every wet spot is coated and absorbed. Shake off any excess flour and transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Working in batches so as not to crowd the pot, fry the thighs until deep golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove and let cool on the wire rack or paper towels.
- When ready to serve, cut the chicken lengthwise and then crosswise into bite-size pieces. Place the chicken over a bed of rice and drizzle with the kochujang aioli and su-miso sauce. In a small bowl, toss the furikake, rice crackers, and fried garlic together and sprinkle over the chicken. Top with scallions. Serve immediately with salt-pickled cabbage on the side.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the kochujang, sugar, garlic, and mayonnaise with a teaspoon of water until incorporated.
- In a small saucepan, stir together the sake, mirin, and sugar. Bring to a boil, cooking until the smell of alcohol goes away and the sauce starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the miso until dissolved. Let cool before using.
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely minced.
- Fill a medium-width, deep-sided pot halfway with water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Transfer the garlic to a sieve and submerge in the hot water, blanching for about 2 minutes. Remove and dunk the garlic in the ice water until cooled, then drain well and spread evenly onto the lined baking sheet. Bake until the garlic is dry to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes.
- While the garlic is drying, empty out the pot and dry well. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of oil, making sure to leave a few inches of clearance from the top of the pot. Heat the oil over medium high until it reaches 350°F (use a thermometer).
- Have the baking sheet lined with paper towels at the ready. Add the garlic and fry until the bubbles begin to subside and the garlic turns golden and rises to the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the fried garlic back to the paper towels and let cool completely. Season generously with salt, then transfer to a sealable container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks. Reserve the garlic-flavored frying oil for future use.
- Core the cabbage and cut into 2-inch squares, breaking the layers apart. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, using a spatula or your hands to distribute the salt evenly and massage it into the leaves.
- Use an inverted plate to cover and press the cabbage and place a heavy object on top, like a tin can or large stone. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Remove the weight and toss the cabbage. If there are parts of cabbage that haven’t turned slightly translucent, sprinkle them witha little more salt and toss again. Replace the weight and let sit for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the cabbage from the bowl and place in a colander over the sink. Use your hands to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Don’t rinse it! Once the cabbage has been squeezed, sprinkle on the dashi powder (if using) and toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve. Keeps for about 1 week in the fridge.
Reprinted with permission from Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder, copyright © 2021. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Kevin J. Miyazaki © 2021