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Cut for Chicken Hekka

Chicken Hekka – Photo courtesy of Champuru.net

I did some grocery shopping at Foodland Farms (their new surname) in Aina Haina last weekend, where in the meat department, I came across a tray of chicken parts named “Island Chicken Hekka”. Which struck me on several fronts: first that it’s been a while since I’ve last had Chicken Hekka; and second that, well, that’s quite a specialized cut!

I mean, what supermarkets beyond Hawaii would you find cuts of chicken designated specifically for Chicken Hekka? California? Doubt it. New York? No way.

What’s more odd, is that this tray of “Island Chicken Hekka” (looks like they crossed-off “Island” because the chicken isn’t locally produced) is simply randomly-cut pieces from various parts of the bird, including the wing, breast, back and wherevahz.

Which must mean whoever is the manager or butcher of Foodland Farms’ meat department is basing this off their own personal Chicken Hekka recipe. Where at this point you might be asking, “What the heck is Chicken Hekka?”

Well, doing some quick “Google Fu’ing”, according to the late and great Honolulu Star Bulletin, “Hekka is a sukiyaki-type dish of plantation origin that consists of chicken and vegetables.” Sounds about right. I highly doubt anyone in China, Japan, the Philippines or Portugal have heard of “Chicken Hekka”. Heck, it just may have been named “Chicken Hekka” by the very meaning of “Chicken with whatever the HECK else thrown in with it”.

Really, it is though. Take a look at this recipe, courtesy of Sam Choy:

Chicken Hekka
Sam Choy

• 2-1/2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts, cut into strips
• 3 tablespoons macadamia nut oil
• 1/2 finger ginger, minced
• 2 cans bamboo shoots, sliced
• 1 bunch green onions, cut saimin-style
• 1 round onion, cut in half moon slices
• 3 medium carrots, julienned
• 1 package pre-sliced shiitake mushrooms
• 3 stalks celery, julienned
• 1/2 bundle watercress, cut into 1-inch lengths
• 1 block tofu, cut in 1-inch cubes
• 5 bundles of bean thread

• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/2 cup macadamia nut oil
• 2 tablespoons mirin
• 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
• 1/2 tablespoon salt
• 1/4 tablespoon white pepper
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 3/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/2 cup chicken broth

Combine marinade ingredients and marinate chicken for 30 minutes. Slice vegetables, mix and set aside. Blend sauce ingredients and set aside. Brown chicken in marinade and 3 tablespoons of macadamia nut oil to which you have added the half finger of minced ginger. Add all vegetables and cook for 1 minute. Add sauce and bean threads and simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.

That’s certainly lots o’ stuff in there.

Now check out my mother’s recipe:

Hilo Style Chicken Hekka (can use beef too!)

• 2 lbs. boneless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
• 1 bunch watercress, roughly chopped
• 1 large round onion, sliced
• Green onion, chopped for garnish
• 1 block tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
• 1 can bamboo shoots (5.5 oz.)
• 1 can mushrooms (4.5 oz.), reserve liquid
• 2 bunches bean thread noodles (long rice)
• 1/3 cup shoyu
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup beer
• 1 tsp. salt

Heat oil in deep pan or wok, then add chicken, shoyu, sugar, beer, mushroom liquid and salt. When chicken is cooked through, add tofu, watercress, sliced onion, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and bean thread noodles and cook until until bean thread noodles are al dente. Garnish with green onions, then serve with hot rice.

I’ll make this recipe later after my kitchen is finished with its renovation, which is currently under way.

Cuts for Chicken Hekka? Check. Yet there’s other asian-inspired specialized cuts of meat in our local supermarket as well. At Don Quijote and Marukai, you’ll find boneless pork chops cut thin and labeled for Tonkatsu. For beef, of course we have short ribs labeled for Teriyaki and Kal Bi. There’s also very thin cuts of beef labeled for Sukiyaki…

What I have yet to see here in Hawaii supermarkets is beef labeled specifically for Beef Bourguignon, Daube or Stroganoff. All three of which sounds good right about now!


17 thoughts on “Cut for Chicken Hekka

  • June 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Pomai, I heard of chicken hekka for a long time but never got around to make it now it must try on the family menu. Dad like Sam Choy recipe and Mom like your mom recipe so I will do Sam Choy first and later your mom recipe.

  • June 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

    It’s amazing what a tasty dish can come from a tray full of what looks like a coupla yardbirds that were run over by a lawnmower. LOL

    Interesting that Sam uses Mac nut oil in that recipe. I had some that was given to me as a gift; one plain, one basil, one hot chile. Although it’s not as flavor-neutral as peanut oil, I really dug using it for stir fries and marinades. Pretty cool.

  • June 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Marcus, very good point about the use of Mac Nut Oil. No doubt the type of oil used to stir-fry the dish makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

    Kelike, let me know which one turns out better. I’m hanging right now, with no STOVE! Ack!

  • June 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

    No stove mean back to ramen meal. Bloggers will check out other things in food.

  • June 12, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    yum! sometimes we have beef or pork hekka.

  • June 13, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Pomai, I had to try Sam Choy recipe first like Kelike and it ture out pretty good tasting and will try your mom recipe also. Erica like it very much and never had Chicken Hekka before . Family like it too. I see both recipes are great recipes to use.

  • June 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Aaron, wow that was quick. I have to admit, if there’s one thing I’d “doctor” with mom’s recipe, it would be to add ginger to it. For me, stir-fried dishes and ginger are best friends. Garlic too.

    Kat, I think I’ll try making all three at one time (beef, pork and chicken hekka) so I can compare them. I wonder if a fish hekka would work? Why not! I’ll try it with salmon!

    Alice, since I temporarily don’t have a kitchen, it’s time to bust out my “Saimin Survival Kit”.

  • June 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Salmon Hekka! I like the sound of that.

  • February 17, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Aloha! I grew up eating and then making chicken hekka for the family — one of my all time local comfort food favorites! Button mushrooms (canned :), watercress, tofu and long rice are what brings back the memories! Perfect one-pot meal, eat-over rice-in-saimin bowl type of dinner — yumm!

  • February 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Cilla, thanks for digging this thread back up. Never made this for quite some time now. Perhaps I’ll try “Frog Legs Hekka”. Hey, why not? Tastes like chicken!

  • August 8, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Wow, the memories of my mom cooking this for years in Hawaii. I keep saying I will make it but now I have inspiration to do it.

  • February 8, 2015 at 9:19 am

    The Recipe sounds good will try soon, don’t have Mac oil, but have Peanut oil, I think I’ll add a little Won Bok Cabbage too.

  • February 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Found a nice little Youtube clip on Chicken Hekka. These things are invaluable for someone like me. A no-account haole with nobody around to show me how to make things like this. Sure, I can follow a recipe, but it’s nice to see examples, too. Here’s the video… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54THD91HUNE

  • February 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    BigBoyChan – that was a great video. Now I’m inspired to make this dish soon! To note, the Chicken Hekka I’m familiar with also has cubes of firm tofu in it. Like Saimin, Chicken Hekka seems to be a hybrid Chinese-Japanese inspired dish, and something you don’t see very often in restaurants here in the islands… which it should be!

    • February 8, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      However Hekka does not have tofu. That is Chix Tofu. And Hekka always has watercress.,


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