Huli Huli Chicken and Homemade Rice-A-Roni

Years ago my cousin from Hawaii visited us with her then boyfriend who was a chef.  He had worked in various kitchens in Honolulu and at the time of their visit, I believe he was working as a chef at a swanky golf resort somewhere on the island of Oahu.  He told us a story of how he had once eaten this amazing chicken when he was young that he had never forgotten, and how he had spent several years trying to find the recipe.  He finally tracked it down at a friend’s house on another island — maybe it was Maui.  I am probably getting the story all wrong – my cousin will have to correct me!  Anyway, as a thank you for letting them crash at our place, he wrote out the recipe for this amazing chicken, and gave it to us.  In his version, marinated chicken is dredged in flour and then fried.  We would skip this step and just grill it over charcoal.

It is with deep regret that one day I discovered I had LOST this recipe.  I am not exaggerating when I say that my husband was devastated.  This chicken had become our number favorite.  We all love it so much.  No matter how many times we have had it in the past, my husband still swoons over it while eating it.  He was ready to kill me.

Melissa Iwai Copyright 2010

However, all was well, because since we had made it so many times, it was pretty much ingrained in my brain – I could practically see the paper with our friend’s handwriting on it if I closed my eyes.  And of course, I ended up changing it up a bit – I can’t help myself – I’m always doing this.  My husband made me promise him I would type up the recipe and save it on the computer as well as print out a hard copy to have in our recipe files.  Several friends have asked for this recipe, and I keep forgetting to give it to them.  So I decided to feature it here, where it can live in cyberspace, and where I can share it with everyone.  And thank you E, for sharing it with us in the first place!

I’m adding a “Rice-A-Roni” recipe here – we were out of Japanese rice, and I decided to liven up the whole wheat basmati rice we had in the pantry and make a childhood favorite – Rice-A-Roni. Remember the jingle?  “Rice-(ding! ding!)A-Roni … the San Francisco treat!”

I literally had not eaten this in over 30 years, but I saw a homemade version at Thibeault’s Table and got inspired.  It is such comfort food.  Of course Jamie loved it. How could a kid not? 🙂

Huli Huli Chicken

My modifications are in parenthesis

½ cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt (I usually omit this)

10 tablespoons sugar  (about ¼ cup sugar)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon whiskey ( I use 1 tablespoon sake instead)

10 slices ginger

5 large garlic cloves, smashed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

4-5 lbs. chicken thighs, de-boned, skin on

Mix marinade ingredients together.  Marinate chicken for 24 hours in refrigerator.  It may seem like overkill for chicken, but trust me, it is what makes it so tender and taste so good.

Dredge in flour and fry.

You can also grill the chicken.
For the meal pictured, since it was winter, I baked the chicken in the oven at 350 for about 30-40 minutes.

Homemade Rice-A-Roni

adapted from Thibeault’s Table

I lightened her version a little, and I didn’t have chives or parsley on hand so I omitted them.

1 teaspoon oil

1 medium shallot, minced

1 cup whole wheat basmati rice

1 oz. whole wheat thin spaghetti, cut into small pieces

2 cups chicken broth

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add pasta and rice and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Pour in broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and turn heat down to low.
  2. Cook rice for about 40 minutes until liquid is evaporated and rice is soft.  If you would like the rice to be softer, add a bit of water and keep steaming.
  3. Fluff with a fork and serve.


Filed under chicken, Dinner, Sides, Uncategorized

15 responses to “Huli Huli Chicken and Homemade Rice-A-Roni

  1. Ooh, they both sound delicious. My 16-year-old loves Rice-A-Roni — he can practically eat a whole package of it. A homemade whole wheat version would be so much better. Must try.

  2. Aleen

    Looks great! I’ll have to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. mmmmmmmm. i’m not feeling too articulate so i’ll just leave it at that.


  4. What a cool name for chicken! huli huli! hehe. My husband would love this meal. He is a big chicken and rice fan.

    Btw, I really like your blog. So, I am passing my stylish blogger award to you. You can check out the details here:

  5. Looks so tasty! You’re right I woudn’t normally think to marinate chicken for 24 hours, but I can see that would make a huge difference. Will definitely try this recipe.

  6. Thank goodness you remembered it, I can just see the relief on your husbands face 🙂 It is a great recipe as is the homemade rice a roni…however I will have that song stuck in my head for hours 😦 lol

  7. My Hawaiian roommate in college made something similar to this once but your friend’s recipe looks like a clear winner. My family would absolutely love this chicken and once I make it, I think it will become a regular chicken dish at our home! Thank you, and your friend for sharing this. Also love the rice-a-roni recipe! I make something called chicken-noodle-rice that I learned from my friend and I haven’t made it in over a year… I think it might be time. There’s something about noodles and rice that is just irresistible! Have a great weekend!

  8. The chicken sounds delicious, great flavors with the marinade!

  9. I have been looking for a Hawaiian type chicken recipe. The rice-a-roni is new to me…never tried it. I’d want to serve this with the traditional macaroni salad.

  10. Stephanie G

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  11. I would love to try this recipe. It looks delicious.
    I entered to win the Soup Day Book Giveaway @ Familylicious Reviews! Stop by and enter at

  12. Tandra

    I entered to win the Soup Day Book Giveaway @ Familylicious Reviews! Stop by and enter at

  13. E. Morimoto

    Hi Melissa! I received an email from Amanda one day & got to read your entertaining story. I am VERY happy you & your family still enjoy this recipe… to tell you the truth, I sort of don’t remember the recipe too well. I’m sure its close to accurate & I will be trying it out very soon. I still have very fond memories of my trip to NYC & it was even more enjoyable I could share it w/ you & your husband! I am very grateful to you both & wish you good eats! Eric

  14. I already bookmark it and I’m gonna make it!!Is mouthwatering!!!

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