Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?
Monday, August 9, 2010
Huli Huli Chicken
It was on the road to Haleiwa, not Waianae side, where I found my Huli Huli (Hawaiian for turn) chicken. Huli Huli chicken is Hawaii's version of roast chicken spinning slowly in a spit over kiawe wood. You don't find it on menus and local people never call it roast chicken or kiawe-broiled chicken (even though that's how it's listed on roadside signs for a variety of fundraisers). But it's a most singularly delectable treat that far surpasses traditional roast chickens Martha Stewart subscribes to or found in Costco. The secret must be the kiawe wood, because I can't figure out what else makes Huli Huli chicken stand out.
When I was in high school, our Class of 1982 would hold Huli Huli chicken fundraisers, like every other class would. I'd buy up pre-sale tickets for several plates worth plus found-only-in Hawaii musubi chicken. Once, after a long, hot sunny day cleaning up our backyard in Halawa Heights (I must've been in 11th grade), every exposed part of my body punctured by the sticker-laden bougainvillea branches, I sat down to a much-welcome lunch of this chicken with the musubi rice and pitchers of cold lemonade, homemade by my dad. That's a fond memory the passing years on the Mainland can never erase.
It's one that led me on a search ever since. Nowadays, nobody knows where you can find the once-ubiquitous Huli Huli chicken fundraisers. If you're lucky, your church, business or school is doing a fundraiser and you're manning a spit of them. Or, I hear that the road to Waianae (if you dare, this isn't a tourist-friendly town) usually has a spit going roadside.
When we headed toward Ko Olina, for my husband's 30-year high school reunion luau at Paradise Cove, we saw no Huli Huli chicken, just pickled mango, lychee and smoked ahi.
But when we drove caravan-style to Matsumoto's Shave Ice in Haleiwa toward the North Shore to meet up with some of my friends, we passed one in a parking lot. After some shave ice -- which tastes better with sweetened condensed milk, I discovered -- we backtracked to pick up a whole Huli Huli chicken and rice before heading to the famous Giovanni's Kahuku shrimp truck.
I had the luxury (and the wherewithal) to sit close to the shore at Malaekahana Beach, crack open my plate lunch and dine al fresco, island style. I'll never forget how the chicken and the rice really hit the spot. I may have been blind from the salty sea spray on my glasses, but I could still enjoy the Pacific ocean's waves with my lunch. Even more than any five-star restaurant would, or Giovanni's, which was great, but not very local to me.
I could've had lobster, caviar and champagne served to me by Roy Yamaguchi himself. It wouldn't have held a candle to my childhood memory, the beloved Huli Huli chicken.