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    Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken

    How can Soy Sauce Chicken be so phenomenal, and one of the most beloved dishes out of Hawaii? But it is… A simple chicken dish, but ultimate Umami Bomb!

    This Shoyu Chicken, simply meaning “Soy Sauce Chicken”, is one of the island favorites that you can spot in many laid-back luaus and local restaurants. It’s their easy get together dish for masses served on top of rice and Hawaiian Mac Salad.

    Shoyu Chicken is sweet and savory, fall off the bone tender meat after braising in Shoyu sauce for about an hour or so. Simple but flavorful, it’s a go-to comfort food for many, offering a little taste of Hawaii in every bite.

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    Hawaiian food culture is a fascinating blend of native traditions with influences from various immigrant groups that have made the islands their home over the centuries.

    Besides native Polynesians, over time, settlers from places like China, Japan, Portugal, Korea, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico arrived, each bringing their unique culinary traditions. This led to a fusion known as “local food”.

    We’ve been fascinated by their unique take on food. Loco Moco, Kalua Pork and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad are all very tasty island recipes we have featured on GypsyPlate. So we were pretty geared up to try another very common Hawaiian dish, this time with chicken.

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    What is Shoyu Chicken?

    The term “shoyu” is the Japanese word for soy sauce. Japanese immigrants brought this savory condiment with them when they came to Hawaii. As the name suggests, the star of the dish is shoyu, or soy sauce. This gives the chicken its deep, rich color and forms the base of its rich, umami packed savory flavor.

    While the precise origins of Shoyu Chicken are a bit murky, it likely emerged as local Hawaiian cooks began adapting and incorporating the flavors of soy sauce into their food. Over time, they added elements like ginger, garlic, and brown sugar, lending the dish its distinct sweet and savory profile.

    The chicken is typically braised in the Shoyu sauce, resulting in tender, flavorful meat that’s infused with flavor. Shoyu Chicken is traditionally served with steamed white rice and sometimes alongside other Hawaiian favorites like macaroni salad.

    What probably began as a home-cooked meal, Shoyu Chicken quickly gained popularity across the islands. Its rich flavors, paired with its simplicity, made it a favorite in households and local eateries alike.

    The dish is a beautiful representation of the cultural melting pot that Hawaii has become over the centuries, especially with the blending of Asian culinary traditions with local Hawaiian tastes and preferences.

    Serving of soy sauce chicken along with macaroni salad.

    What Cut of Chicken is Best

    For Shoyu Chicken, the traditionally used cut is bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. They’re favored because the bone and skin contribute to the dish’s depth of flavor.

    The fat from the skin renders into the braising liquid, adding richness, while the bone helps keep the meat moist and tender during the slow cooking process.

    Chicken thighs are also more flavorful and less prone to drying out than breasts. The end result is a succulent, tender piece of chicken that has absorbed the flavors of the shoyu-based marinade.

    A Note About Shoyu Sauce

    Different Asian cuisines have different variations of soy sauce, and Shoyu is the Japanese version. Before you start planning a trip to your nearest Asian market, you may well already have some in your pantry.

    Kikkoman, the most widely available soy sauce in America, is in fact a Japanese Shoyu.

    Ingredients Needed

    • Chicken – We are using bone-in, skin on chicken thighs.
    • For Shoyu Sauce – Soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili flakes, water.
    • Cornstarch – To make a slurry to thicken the sauce.
    • For garnish – Sesame seeds, green parts of scallions.

    Easy Shoyu Chicken Recipe

    The third step of broiling the chicken is optional. We enjoy it both ways, and have included pictures of both. The chicken in the brown bowl is broiled, the chicken in the white bowl is not.

    1. Make the shoyu braising liquid: Add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili flakes to a bowl. Whisk to combine.

    braising liquid in a bowl

    2. Braise the shoyu chicken: Pour the braising shoyu liquid into a Dutch oven with a lid. Nestle the chicken thighs in the pot, submerging them in the liquid as much as possible.

    chicken added to the pot

    Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low. Cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fall-apart tender and cooked through.

    Shoot for an internal temperature of at least 185°F as measured by an instant read thermometer to ensure tenderness.

    braising the chicken

    3. Broil the shoyu chicken (optional): Preheat oven to its highest broil setting. Transfer the chicken thighs to a wire rack on baking sheet. Place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the chicken skin is crispy and caramelized. Keep an eye on it and make sure it’s not browning too quickly.

    broiling the chicken

    4. Thicken the sauce (optional): As the chicken broils, you can also thicken the braising liquid. Bring the cooked shoyu sauce to a boil and add cornstarch slurry (by mixing 1 tsp cornstarch in 1 Tbsp water). Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, or until reduced to desired consistency.

    thickening the sauce

    5. Serve: Simply serve it on bed of white rice with plenty of Shoyu sauce. Like locals, you can have a side of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad too.

    This recipe for Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken features chicken braised in a flavorful soy sauce based sauce until it's melt in your mouth tender.

    Crockpot Method

    Prep the recipe by making the shoyu braising liquid and place chicken and liquid in your slow cooker. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours until the chicken is fall-apart tender.

    Finish as directed in above steps 3-4. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to thicken the braising liquid in the slow cooker.

    Oven Baked Method

    Make the shoyu braising liquid and place the chicken along with liquid in a dutch oven or baking casserole dish.

    Cover and braise it in preheated oven at 400°F for 45-60 minutes, or until chicken is fall apart tender. Finish as directed in above steps 3-4.

    Instant Pot Method

    Pour the shoyu sauce and chicken in your Instant Pot. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Cook the shoyu chicken on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. Once the cook time ends, allow the steam to naturally release for 5-10 minutes.

    Once all the steam is released, open the lid. Switch the Instant Pot to its “Sauté” setting and finish the shoyu chicken as directed in Steps 3-4.

    Tips and Tricks

    • Choose the Right Cut: Stick to bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. This cut is juicier and more flavorful, making for a more tender result after braising.
    • Slow and Steady: When braising, maintain a gentle simmer. Boiling it too vigorously can make the chicken tough.
    • Broil for Crispiness: This crisps up the skin and adds a lovely caramelized flavor.
    • Thicken the Sauce: If you like a thicker sauce to drizzle over rice, use a cornstarch slurry. Just make sure you cook it long enough to get rid of the starchy taste.
    This recipe for Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken features chicken braised in a flavorful soy sauce based sauce until it's melt in your mouth tender.

    Shoyu Chicken is a perfect example of a fusion of two cultures. Try this easy chicken braised in soy sauce, island style.

    Every time you eat this chicken, you’re tasting a bit of history and tradition. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve had it before, enjoy the meal and the memories it reminds you of.

    Shoyu Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    shoyu chicken on the Gypsy Plate

    More chicken dishes from around the world:
    Indian Chicken Masala
    Peruvian Pollo a la Brasa
    Jamaican Jerk Chicken
    Laksa Noodle Soup
    Hungarian Paprikash
    Dominican Pollo Guisado
    Thai Green Chicken Curry
    Chicken Jollof Rice
    Coq au Vin

    featured image for shoyu chicken recipe

    Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 55 minutes

    This recipe for Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken features chicken braised in a flavorful soy sauce based sauce until it's melt in your mouth tender.

    Ingredients

    • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
    • ½ cup soy sauce (see note 1)
    • 1 cup water
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
    • 6 garlic, sliced
    • 2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
    • 2 scallions, sliced
    • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
    • cornstarch slurry (optional)
    • sesame seeds, for garnish
    • green part of scallions, for garnish

    Instructions

      1. Make the shoyu braising liquid: Add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili flakes to a bowl. Whisk to combine.
      2. Braise the shoyu chicken: Pour the braising shoyu liquid into a Dutch oven with a lid. Nestle the chicken thighs in the pot, submerging them in the liquid as much as possible. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low. Cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fall-apart tender and cooked through.
      3. Optional broiling: Preheat oven to its highest broil setting. Transfer the chicken thighs to a wire rack on baking sheet. Place under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the chicken skin is crispy and caramelized. Keep an eye on it and make sure it’s not browning too quickly.
      4. As the chicken broils, you can also thicken the braising liquid. Bring the cooked shoyu sauce to a boil and add cornstarch slurry (by mixing 1 tsp cornstarch in 1 Tbsp water). Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, or until reduced to desired consistency.
      5. Serve with rice and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad.

    Crockpot Method:

      Prep the recipe by making the shoyu braising liquid and place chicken and liquid in your slow cooker. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 5-6 hours until the chicken is fall-apart tender. Finish as directed in Steps 3-4. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to thicken the braising liquid in the slow cooker.

    Oven Method:

      Make the shoyu braising liquid and place the chicken along with shoyu liquid in a dutch oven or baking dish. Cover and braise it in preheated oven at 400°F for 45-60 minutes, or until chicken is fall apart tender. Finish the recipe according to Steps 3-4 above.

    Instant Pot Method:

      Pour the shoyu sauce and chicken in your Instant Pot. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Cook the shoyu chicken on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. Once the cook time ends, allow the steam to naturally release for 5-10 minutes. Once all the steam is released, open the lid. Switch the Instant Pot to its “Sauté” setting and finish the shoyu chicken as directed in Steps 3-4.

    Notes

    1. Different Asian countries have different soy sauces. For authentic flavors, use a Japanese shoyu. Kikkoman is one such shoyu (though it doesn't say so on the bottle), and is the most widely available soy sauce in America.
    2. Leftovers: Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you plan to eat them within 3-4 days. If you want to keep the chicken for a longer period, place it in freezer-safe bags or containers and store in the freezer. It's best used within 2-3 months for optimal flavor and texture. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. In a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, add the chicken and any remaining sauce. Cover and let it simmer gently until heated through. You can also reheat in the microwave.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 233Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 42mgSodium 1820mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 2gSugar 23gProtein 12g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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