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Hoku’s “Huri Huri” Chicken

Driving home down Kapahulu Avenue today from my regular Safeway run, it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to not notice the wafting smoke and aroma of BBQ chicken emanating from the Rainbow Drive-In parking lot on the left. Where obviously they were doing Huli Huli Chicken! Oh, wait? Did I say that? OK, never mind I said that, as that name is copyrighted, lest you should like to use that tag line for commercial purposes.

Huli-Huli Chicken is a trade name copyrighted by Ernest Morgado of Pacific Poultry, who sells a bottled sauce under that name, therefore, unless through proper legal channels, commercial use of the name “Huli-Huli Chicken” is forbidden, lest you want to face a challenge in court. Tisk, tisk.

Well, I”m part-Hawaiian, so I say “whatevehaz”, as “huli” is as integral a part of my daily “slanguage” as any other. “Huli” means to “turn”, therefore “Huli-Huli” means to “turn-turn”. Or in English parlance, “Rotisserie“. So like, say there’s an overturned car on the freeway (as if that happens all the time, right?), we’ll say, “Da’ buggah went huli.” If it was really drastic, we say “Da’ buggah went huli maka flip!”

However, ah, nevah’ mind all that. For all intent and purposes, lets’ just call what we have here today “Huri Huri Chicken”, a name I personally coined as a spinoff from how Japanese have a “difficurt” time pronouncing hard L’s in the “Engrish ranguage”. And please, don’t get your chopsticks in a twist: I am certainly NOT making fun of my fellow Nihongin tomodachi.

Or how’s about “Hoody-Hoody Chicken”? Or “Who’D~Who’D Chicken”? Or “Huli Maka Flip ‘Kine Chicken”? Or it may evolve as “Hurry-Hurry Chicken”, to as far as “Wiki-Wiki Chicken”? How you figgah? “Hori Strokes!”. Um, “Smokes”!

Anyhow, let’s it check out!…

Aaaah yes, there’s certainly lots of turn ‘n burn here, thanks to a bed of literally flamin’ hot kindling Kiawe (Mesquite) wood…

I will say this: until “Smell-O-Vision” is perfected (my Galaxy Note has a prototype app that shoots the scent out the S-Pen port), you so DO NOT KNOW how freeking ONOLICIOUS this smells. OMG!

As you would expect when cooking so many angry birds (oh, did I say that? Well that name’s copyrighted, too!), they have a system here. The racks are moved in timed stages from back to front of the fire bed in each indent, starting on the lower temperature back side to fully cook the inside, to the hotter area at the front to get a nice “papa’a” (seared), crispy golden skin. Just before each rack is removed from the fire, the “Huri Huri” pit master takes it off the rotisserie chain and let’s it stand over the hottest part of the Kiawe for a final fire “blast” to get that finishing “papa’a” crisped skin. Now that’s what you call a pro’ right there! Total cooking time per rack is 30 to 40 minutes. For each rack removed, on goes the next, and repeat.

Continuing the walkaround…

Kiawe — a.k.a. Mesquite wood — is the fuel to this very smokey fire…



Prior to every new batch of “Huri~Huri Chicken”, the rotisserie racks are thoroughly scrubbed clean, so that every chicken has optimal appearance when done…





“Brah, buss’ out da’ Musubi!”

The man behind all this onolicious “Huli style” Chicken is Mr. Mankeung “MK” Ng of 50th State Poultry, Inc….

Mr. Ng takes unsurpassed PRIDE in his work of making GREAT “Huri~Huri Chicken”, as you see here…

Super nice dude. Love him!

Hoku’s menu…

The Half-Chicken Plate for $7 includes 2 scoops rice and 1 scoop Rainbow Drive-In’s Mac’ Salad..

Here’s how the Rainbow Drive-In/Hoku BBQ Half-Chicken Plate for $7 looked…

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/RainbowDriveIn

That said, I absolutely could NOT resist trying some, so I bought a whole “Huri~Huri Chicken”, split in halves, packaged like this…

Taken out, then plated like this with green onion and Chinese Parsley (Cilantro) as garnish…

No flash…

How pretty, however that only goes so far. Let’s have at it!…

Zoom in…

Juicy Lucy (that’s actually the name of a cheese-stuffed burger, but sounds good here)…



Seriously, this is  “Huli Huli” style Chicken at its finest. The simple flavoring components of shoyu, sugar, ginger and garlic, that, according to “Huri~Huri Chicken” head Chef “MK” said is injected into the meat, totally permeated every single bite, from inside to out. Juicy. Succulent. Savory. “Chickeny”. Overall, the levels of smoke, sugar, salt and spices were spot-on PERFECT. The skin had the perfect amount of crispness and golden roasted flavor, with seared edges in all the right spots without tasting burnt. Again, like Koala Moa’s Rotisserie Chicken (their commercial name for the same thing), “Huli Huli” style Chicken just doesn’t get any better than this.

By the way, if you’re going to ask where’s da’ rice? I’m already pushing it by going outside my pescetarian realm — which I tend to do as a “weekend warrior”, so I kept this as a low-carb, high protein “Atkins” affair. And yes, I ate the skin. With “Huli Huli” chicken, you GOTTA’! And, yes, I ran it off.

And what was all this for? A fundraiser for the Ifuku Foundation in support of a local longboard surf club, whom owner and general manager of Rainbow Drive-In, Jim Gusukuma is a part of. Here he is with Yours Truly…

Jim Gusukuma of Rainbow Drive-In and Pomai Souza of The Tasty Island. 4.06.13

Also on-hand and part of the longboard surf club was Catherine Toth, former columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser, now teaching journalism at Kapiolani Community College…

Pomai Souza and Catherine Toth, courtesy of Cat’s Twitter feed. 4.06.13

Cat’s a totally cool, down-to-earth gal, who also blogs over at TheCatDish.com. Check it out!

You may recall that Crab & Shiitake Mushroom Sushi “Casserole” dish I posted a recipe for a while back…

Crab & Shiitake Mushroom Sushi “Casserole”

Well, my cousin actually got that most OISHII recipe from his surfing buddy, Cat. Arigato!

A quick video clip…

The guy chopping the “Huri Huri” Chickens in half is my cousin, Chucky, who is also a part of their longboard surf club. “Will surf for Huli Chicken. Like, totally, dude.” lol

I spoke with Mr. Ng at the end of the day when they were cleaning up, and he said they sold out of all 250 chickens. At $5 per half, or $10 a full bird, along with $7 for BBQ half-chicken plates, do the math. Not bad for a short day’s work. Surf’s up!

From what I understand, Rainbow Drive-In will have repeat BBQ Chicken fundraisers on select Saturdays. Like Rainbow Drive-In on their Facebook page for the latest updates.


12 thoughts on “Hoku’s “Huri Huri” Chicken

  • April 7, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Pomai,chicken photos turn out so good make people really head out to get some chicken.

  • April 7, 2013 at 6:13 am

    It’s too bad that we missed this by less than a week. We were at Rainbow last Sunday. I really wanted to have HH chicken on the islands, but never have. It’s hard to “come across” these fund-raisers on the bus. Now I sit here on the mainland, dreaming. BTW, never knew that “huli hull” was copyrighted. It seems in real common use, including by America’s Test Kitchen and all over the internet.

  • April 7, 2013 at 6:18 am

    I love grilled chicken!!!!! There is a Thai place near us and they serve a wonderful Gai Yang. That and some veggies and it makes for a perfect after workout meal. Also, if I am in a town with a El Pollo Loco or better yet, a Peruvian joint, I always make it a point to stop and grab a bite.

    The El Pollo Loco franchise and it s various analogs all started from roadside stands in Mexico, it makes me wonder if a concept like Hu*i Hu*i could work commercially. Prolly not in Hawaii due to the strong roots in fundraising but somewhere on the mainland. Naming it should not be too hard, you already know what not to call it. :-)

  • April 7, 2013 at 8:06 am

    @ Aaron – Actually I’m still just “getting by” with my old “beater” camera. Thankfully it’s a Canon, so it still takes decent shots, providing there’s enough light. Gotta’ get going on that warranty claim for my S95.

    @ zoomeboshi – yeah, Huli Huli Chicken fundraisers are like pop-up events, where you never know, unless in today’s day and age, you’re connected with the right social media channels. As a local food blogger, I really should make it a point to keep my readers posted on foodie event schedules on a regular basis. I’ll do my best from now on, particularly on Twitter. You often come across Huli Huli Chicken fundraisers on the North Shore when you go driving around the island. At least I’ve found that a common thing out that side.

    @ ArnyB – As listed in the last “Oahu Eateries Memorialized” post, Oahu did in fact at one time have 2 El Pollo Loco locations. We also recently got 2 Max of Manila restaurants, featuring their Filipino style broasted chicken. It was “OK”, but can’t even TOUCH “Huli Huli” style chicken. The combination of the deeply penetrated teriyaki style sauce and the smokey accent from the Kiawe wood can’t be beat.

    I certainly love the complex spices and lemon grass accent they use on Thai and Vietnamese style grilled meats and seafood. There’s a Vietnamese restaurant here called Bac Nam who’s GREAT at it! Next time you’re in Honolulu, definitely put Bac Nam on your must-eat list! I reviewed them twice here.

  • April 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Dang! 5 dollars for half a chicken and 7 dollars for a chicken plate is steals, especially for a fundraiser.

    I’d love to support that cause. :)

    • April 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

      O wow…. I just flashed back to all the huli-huli chicken fundraisers I worked through HS and college! My Boy Scout Troop, the Daimond Head Lions Club, church groups…. We used to huli the racks by hand, set up and baste, too. Used Aloha Shoyu to baste. Back then, it was $1.00 a half bird, I think. The second best fundraiser to the sweetbread sales!

  • April 8, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Pomai, Hawaiian also had the rolling r sound. Because there was no Latinate letter (ironic given that ancient Latin also had it), the missionaries used an r or l. And because Hawaiians absolutely loved to read and in fact had the world’s highest literacy rate, the rolling r gradually disappeared everywhere but Niihau (and some say Hana).
    So it was your ancestors that insisted that you say huli huli correctly.

  • April 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    That puts Costco rotisserie chicken to shame!! I hope they are doing it 4 Saturdays from now when we are over in the 808. Hook us up Pomai!

  • April 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    @ pat – So basically you’re saying “Huri Huri” is phonetically correct? I always thought Hawaiians pronounced Ls very “hard”, e.g. “aLoha”, not “a’Roha”, or “Leimomi”, not “R’eimomi”.

    @ Keith – is that all they used for the flavor, just Aloha Shoyu? Or did “Uncle Masa” slip in his secret ingredients (oh, like say mirin, ginger, garlic and Hawaiian Chili Pepper) when nobody was looking? Because you know, everyone has a clever uncle named Masa!

    @ Ricky – as noted, “like” Rainbow Drive-In on FB, as they’re good about posting the latest happenings there, including that BBQ Chicken fundraiser drive. And I agree, that is a steal, especially for a fundraiser. I honestly think they should add another dollar or two to the half-chicken price, and sell the plates for $8. It would still be worth it. But shhhh, don’t tell them I said that. :snicker:

    • April 9, 2013 at 3:34 am


      As I recall, the setup had the chickens, charcoal pits, racks and cases of Aloha Shoyu in glass gallon bottles. This was in the late 60’s early 70’s and I don’t think Aloha was making a teri sauce back then. Maybe one of the guys was adding stuff to the baste, but somehow the shoyu stands out in my memory… my main job was “huli-ing” the racks and basting. Maybe the sauce was made by the Ewa Brand people and re-bottled back in the Aloha Shoyu Bottles… no mattah the chicken was awesome anyway!

  • April 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Pomai. Yeah, but no sense trying nowadays. Language evolves. Written language often changes the manner in which the literate speak and think. Then that becomes the “high class” norm. In Hawaii it had a slightly different but similar evolution. Royalty ordered the populace to learn to read. They did, easily. They loved the bible. The stories. Then politics. Then music. Then newspapers. Loved to read.
    That being said, it was often a difficult choice between choosing the way to go to the early amateur linguists. Their choices affected all of Polynesia, BTW. The Hawaiians were determined Christian missionaries themselves, something not often taught anymore.
    Lei is likely correct. The active verb “huri” is likely correct. I surely am willing to be corrected. Or I can ask next door. LOL

  • April 12, 2013 at 7:56 am

    LOL about the “huri huri”! I’m telling you, we Portuguese are SMART! It’s interesting, though, that a word — actually, a verb — could be copyrighted. It’s like copyrighting “grilled.” Anyway, it was great seeing you FINALLY! Love your blog!


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