Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hawaiian Style Shoyu Chicken

Everyone in Hawaii has their own family recipe for shoyu chicken.  My recipe has a Chinese twist with the addition of star anise giving the sauce a gentle hint of licorice, if you are not a fan of licorice, which I am not, don’t be afraid to add this layer of flavor. One little star anise wakes up the sauce in a way that no other spice can.
Star Anise
If you leave the star anise out, you will be making it more of a Japanese style shoyu chicken which is also very good, it’s all up to you.  This simple one pot meal will prove to be a crowd pleaser the minute it hits the table.

Shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce.  In Hawaii all soy sauce is referred to as shoyu.  Not all shoyu sauces are created equal.  Aloha shoyu is the soy sauce of choice for the people of Hawaii, but it is very expensive to purchase outside of Hawaii, turning an economical meal into a treasure. So I have learned to adjust my recipes using Kikkoman which is readily available to me in Oregon.

I made this dish with bone in, skin on chicken thighs because that is how we make it in Hawaii.  But you can use boneless, skinless chicken if you choose. Just be sure to use dark meat like thighs, legs or wings for this recipe or your chicken will be dry.  But, if you are completely against using dark meat chicken, marinate your breast meat overnight in the marinade and cook the chicken for no more than 15 – 20 minutes.

4 – 5    pounds            chicken thighs
½         cup                  brown sugar, packed
½         cup                  white sugar
1          cup                  Kikkoman soy sauce
1          cup                  water
2          cloves              garlic, minced
1          Tbsp.               fresh ginger, minced
1          whole               star anise
2          Tbsp.               cornstarch
2          Tbsp.               water

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a large pot or skillet with a cover.  Place the chicken pieces in the sauce and let marinate for an hour or two.  Place pot over the stove and bring to a boil; lower heat and cover.  Cook chicken for about 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Mix cornstarch with the 2 Tbsp. water.  Remove chicken and skim off the fat.  Bring sauce to a boil and stir in cornstarch mixture.  Stir and cook until thickened.  Add chicken back to the pot.

Garnish with green onions and serve with rice.


  1. absolutely yummy! my ohana LOVED it..i was so afraid to try another recipe ( i forgot the measurements my mom uses) but this comes real close to it!! ^_^ ONO-LICIOUS!

    1. Mahalo for the thumbs up Dezixpai, I'm so glad that you and your family enjoyed it.

  2. This shoyu chicken is DA Bomb! My whole family loved this recipe and I can say this is the best shoyu chicken recipe I have ever made!!

    1. Mahalo Adrienne,DA Bomb is quite the compliment:)

  3. My 30-year-old son prepared dinner for us (Dad and Mom) as a "thank you" gesture for my baby sitting his 10-month old son on Friday. (Wife-Mom was working.) I observed him as he prepared the shoyu chicken with your recipe on his ipad. ~~ My husband and I were amazed at the wonderful taste and presentation of the chicken thighs. I even dare say, I have never tasted such delicious looking shoyu chicken in all of my 60+ years of life. It looked like it was prepared by a fine dining restaurant chef.

    Thank you, Susan, for sharing this recipe with us. Now, I won't be hesitant to prepare shoyu chicken for my family and/or friends.

    New Grandma from Hawaii

    1. Congratulations "tutu"!
      Mahalo for your encouragement and taking the time to share your story with me. It touched my heart and brought a smile to my face.
      Aloha from Oregon :)

  4. I will be trying this recipe soon. Im so happy I found this.
    One question I will be using Aloha shoyu instead of Kikkoman so will I use the same amount that the recipe calls for? My understanding is that Kikkoman is salter than Aloha shoyu.

    1. Hi Brandi, Thanks for stopping by and for the great question. Since you are fortunate enough to be using Aloha Shoyu, I would decrease the amount of water to 3/4 c. instead of 1 c. Let me know how your shoyu chicken turns out.

    2. Finally made this tonight. What a big hit at the dinner table!!! I think next time I make this which will be soon I will add a little less sugar my 4yr old said it was yummy but a little sweet.Thanks susan for sharing.
      I will be trying your chicken long rice next :)

    3. That's awesome! Yes, I should have told you to cut back on the sugar too. Because as you stated earlier, the Kikkoman is not so much saltier but has a much stronger flavor.

      I just made chicken long rice and I highly recommend you look for the fatter long rice noodles, the ones in the pink netting will get soggy fast. But if you have to use the ones in the pink netting, skip the extra cooking time listed on the recipe.

  5. Hi Susan!

    I'm from Hawaii and I just moved to Oregon for school. I saw your recipe and I was so excited to try it out for a potluck. Im newly exploring my cooking skills so I'm a little nervous. I have what I think is a medium sized pot and I'm not sure if I can fit all 4 lbs of chicken in there, so I was wondering if I used less chicken, would it make it more salty?

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. Hi Ning, Welcome to Oregon!
      You can cook as little as 2# or up to 5# per recipe. Cooking less chicken shouldn't make it more salty, you will just have more sauce than you need. What I would suggest is to cut the recipe in half.

      I can't wait to hear how your chicken turns out.
      Aloha, Susan

  6. Susan,

    Thank you so much for recipe. We lived in Oahu for about a year back in 2006. I know it wasn't long, but we absolutely fell in love with the islands. This meal reminded us of what we're missing. Thanks again and I look forward to trying your other recipes.


    1. Aloha, Mahalo for stopping by. A year in Oahu is plenty of time to discover and miss the flavors of Hawaii. I'm so happy that you enjoyed this dish and look forward to hearing about the other recipes that you try. A hui ho.

  7. My cooking club "went to Hawaii" tonight with our menu. This was our main dish and WOW, it was amazing!!! We used skinless, bone-in thighs and drumsticks. So easy and just melt in your mouth good! Thanks for sharing it :) It will be a keeper in our house!

    1. Aloha Amy,
      I appreciate your kind words! I'm so happy to hear that you and your cooking club included my shoyu chicken in your flavors of Hawaii menu.
      A hui ho (til we meet again)