Saturday, January 23, 2010

Molly D's Kitchen in Seattle: Shoyu Chicken

For the first three years of college I ate in Haverford’s dining hall. Despite the institutional portions and budget the staff tried hard to please the students, so there was a decent salad bar and some notably crave-worthy baked goods (anise bread—who knew?) and desserts (those seven-layer bars!), but it wasn’t enough, at least not for me. Unlike friends from New Jersey or Boston, I only got home to Hawaii twice a year, and I knew I could stick it out and be okay if I could only taste some local flavors, to have a bit of Hawaii in Philadelphia.

From home I brought bags of li hing mui and lemon peel and tried not to go through them too quickly. (At least I never had to share: I learned that no one else wanted any after the first hall-mate who gamely tried a piece spit it out immediately.) I nibbled at the edges of my culinary heritage by going out for Japanese or Thai or dim sum, and for a few moments in those restaurants I felt the warmth of cozy belonging. While studying for finals I sequestered myself in my dorm room and ate long rice from a small rice cooker, sprinkling in jarred nori furikake for flavor. It wasn’t ideal, but it gave me what I needed at the time.

When I eventually had my own kitchen, I learned to travel into Philly’s Chinatown for ingredients. They were still fairly basic, but I had a much wider variety of noodles and rices and some of the other items that I had been carting back from home. I was only just beginning to learn to cook, so I made a lot of rice and fried Spam, waiting for trips home to satisfy most of my cravings.

Finally (and after I had moved to Denver) I was ready to be a bit more ambitious, and one of the first recipes I tried was for shoyu chicken. It’s extremely easy to make, the ingredients can probably be found even in small-town supermarkets, and it works well as leftovers. While I didn’t eat much shoyu chicken growing up, it’s a staple in my house today. My recipe is a minor variation on this one, from the excellent recipe portion of

Shoyu* Chicken

6 skin-on** chicken thighs
5/8 c soy sauce
1 ¼ c water
¼ c brown sugar
3 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 slices ginger, crushed slightly
  1. Place chicken in a large pot skin side up. Add all other ingredients and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat to medium low and cover with lid.
  2. Cook for an hour, turning chicken over halfway through to cook on other side.
  3. After full hour, taste the sauce and adjust to your liking. If it’s too sweet, add more soy sauce; if it’s too salty, add more sugar.
  4. Chicken is done when it is just about falling off the bone. You can leave it in longer than an hour if it’s not quite there yet.
  5. When it is done, I recommend removing chicken from pot, turning the heat up to medium, and reducing the sauce down a bit to make a better sauce. Serve with rice.
*When I was growing up we called all soy sauce by its Japanese name, shoyu.
**You can take the skin off some of the chicken thighs if you’d like to cut back on the fat, but do leave some there for flavor.


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