This blog is mostly about biology, but because biology is about organisms, and because the ultimate fate of all living organisms is to become food for other living organisms (or to be dissipated as heat back to the environment), sometimes this blog is about food. This is one of those times. If you want to go right to the recipe without reading the back-story, scroll down to the end of the post.
It is probably odd that as a biologist in Texas, I have spent more time in Hawaii than in any other state that I haven't lived in (those are Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas). This is because of my January Term course, Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands
(the 2006 group in Haleakala crater - they are smiling because they don't realize that they have the last third of a 12-mile hike, with about 2000 feet elevation gain, to get to the vehicles)
(a view down the "Alley" with koa plantations on the right and makai)
Between January Term and research I have spent the better part of a year in Hawaii over the past 12 years or so. Most of that time has been at HFNWR, but a close second is Hilo, on the windward side of the Big Island. Hilo is a small but interesting city, with substantial ethnic diversity and a population that includes many native Hawaiians. The ethnic diversity includes Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, your standard haole, and importantly for this post, Koreans.
For the first several years that I visited Hilo, there was a small, literally hole-in-the-wal Korean restaurant in a primitive strip mall at the corner of Kawili Street and Manono Street. I went there for lunch at least once during each of my first several visits. The dish that I always ordered was, you guessed it, the Korean barbecued chicken. The chicken was marinated, slow grilled, spicy but sweet, and very flavorful. The chicken was served with steamed rice and pickled vegetables.
There was some point, I am not sure when, that I was in Hilo, and the restaurant was closed. I was back in Hilo a couple of weeks later (having spent time at the refuge), and the restaurant was still closed. There was an older local woman there when I was there, and I asked about the restaurant, and she said, “I think they are gone for good.”
I thought, bother, where am I going to get Korean barbecued chicken? I decided I would have to invent a recipe and do it myself. It may seem odd, but my first try nailed it.
Korean Barbecued Chicken:
Marinade chicken in a mixture of:
- black vinegar (1/4 cup)
- brown sugar (1/8 cup)
- chili paste (1/8 cup)
- garlic (2-3 cloves, pressed)
- sesame oil (1 tablespoon)
- tamari (1/4 cup)
How much of these you use depends on how much chicken you are going to cook. I generally don’t measure the ingredients, but it tends to turn out about the same each time anyway. I usually use a mixture of chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) and thighs (also boneless, skinless) – I usually cut the breasts into two or three pieces before marinating. The amounts above are about right for 3-4 breasts and 6 thighs (which are the amounts in a package of breasts and a package of thighs from Wal-mart), which is enough to feed the houseful of folks that I usually cook this for (6 adults and two grandchildren). Marinade overnight or longer (longer is better, up to 4-5 days). Grill over low heat for 40 minutes or so – spray grill surface with Pam before cooking. Watch the chicken while it is cooking, because the brown sugar tends to make it stick and burn. When you turn the chicken over, pour any leftover marinade over it. Turn the chicken over and move the pieces around to get it to cook evenly. Watch it more closely on a charcoal grill than on a gas grill.
Serve with Korean rice, sticky rice, or cheese grits. Kim Chee goes well also, and caramelized onions. Becky always has to have a salad and a green vegetable.
I might post the recipes for Kim Chee and cheese grits later. Stay tuned.