Continuing on from last month’s theme, it’s not a Gochiso summer ‘till the grillin’ is in full
swing. This month we’ll explore your options with “the other white meat” as well as the “other
More Than Just Huli-Huli
Huli-huli chicken is just as ingrained in Hawaii gastronomy as those other canned meats. It’s a
common sight in Hawaii’s parking lots on weekends. Billows of smoke rising from makeshift sheet
metal platforms accompanied by the unmistakable aroma of smoke-grilled baby chicken.
The popularity of these poussins have more to do with their fundraising capabilities than pure
gustatory bliss. However, they do provide a ready-to-go entrée for the working parent like
supermarket pre-roasted chicken.
“Huli” means to flip in Hawaiian. Therefore, “huli-huli” refers to the constant turning of the
chickens while smoke grilling. These young birds are usually marinated in a shoyu-based marinade
and simply butter flied down the center of the chicken.
The smoke-grilling is simplified by large double wire cages – kind of like grilling baskets that are
available for grilling fish or vegetables – which simplifies “huli”ing the chickens so that each
individual chicken half doesn’t need to be turned. Each cage probably holds 50 to 75 poultry
halves so that mass smoke-grilling can be achieved.
To Brine or Not to Brine
Brining basically refers to presoaking a protein source in a mixture of salt and/or sugar with
various flavor enhancers such as herbs and spices. As the protein source sits in this solution, it
actually takes in more moisture than it loses so that after cooking, the end product remains moist
Brining became popular for that primary Thanksgiving staple - turkey. As most first-timers can
attest to, if the turkey breast is moist, the thighs are probably bordering on Salmonella fodder or
if the thighs are perfectly cooked, then the breast meat resembles turkey jerky.
Brining allows that extra bit of moisture to stay in the breast so that you can enjoy both
succulent thigh meat AND moist, flavorful breasts.
Whether you need to brine or not depends on the type of grill fodder used and the size. If you’re
planning on slow grilling a whole pork loin over indirect heat, it may benefit from an icy soak in
salt, brown sugar, rosemary and garlic. However, if you’re simply grilling fish steaks directly over
the coals, save yourself the trouble and simply preseason with a dry rub.
I actually learned this trick from one of the Two Japanee Bruddahs who in turn, learned it from a
college roommate originally from Hong Kong. Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants
that serve Mongolian Beef get it so tender? You know it’s not cuts of filet mignon for $5.95.
Perhaps some poor fry cook intern pounding beef with a mallet for his whole eight-hour shift?
Maybe it’s wrapped in papaya leaves or soaked in pineapple juice so that the bromelain or papain
can enzymatically tenderize the meat?
Well, it does have to do with an arm AND hammer but no sweat is produced here. It’s actually
tenderized in a baking soda solution! The sodium bicarbonate actually breaks down all of the
connective tissue in the meat, literally.
I encourage you to try this for yourself. Place a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in a 13 x 9-
inch baking pan. Add water to dissolve the baking soda then place a lean cut of meat in the pan
for 15 to 20 seconds. You read that correctly, SECONDS. Leave it submerged for a minute or so
and you’ll literally see the meat dissolve in your hands leaving you with a mass of individual
The key is to remove and rinse the meat before this happens so it’s easier to handle. Simply salt
and pepper the meat then throw it on the grill. Even it’s cooked well done, it will be as tender as
rare filet mignon or prime rib… without all of the fat!
Getting Fish On… and Off the Grill
There are fish baskets available for novices or cedar planks that can be removed with fish in tow or
even aluminum foil wrapped fish that prevent sticking. However the true grill master knows that a
hot fire, a clean grill and a properly oiled fish is all that separates the beautiful piece of grilled fish
on the grill and the beautiful piece of grilled fish that actually makes it to your diner’s plates.
Some grill master wannabes turn the fire down because fish is a “delicate” protein source. What a
low fire allows is juices to exude from the fish along with proteins that form a “glue” that can
bond to the grill grates. And the more juice that exude, the drier the end result so now you’re left
with a dry piece of fish that’s also stuck to the grill.
A dirty grill surface simply enhances the bonding potential of said juice/protein mixture. Oiling
the surface of the fish helps to promote a quicker “crust” to form on the outside, preventing juices
from escaping and also preventing grill bonding from occurring. I also find that it helps to move
the fish back and forth over the grates for the first 15 seconds or so to prevent bonding.
Something to Wash it All Down
Now that we’re fully prepped for summertime grillin’, one last recommendation. As man does not
live by bread alone, so too does he not live by grillin’ fodder alone. You need something refreshing
to wash it all down. Since the usual summertime beverage – namely beer – can get a bit boring,
here’s the a couple of great wine tips.
When a rich, robust red wine is just too much for that 90-degree summertime heat, try an
alternative red like Bodegas Borsao. This Spanish Grenache-based red is a pure red fruit bomb that
matches perfectly with grilled pork, chicken or even ostrich. It’s like a Beaujolais Noveau so it’s
also very good slightly chilled. For those who prefer white wines, Prosecco or Italian sparkling wine
is the perfect refresher wine that’s also lower in alcohol for those hot summer days. It also pairs
well with any type of grilled seafood or can even be combined with fresh fruit juices for your own
Finally, for those who prefer wines with a touch of sweetness, Bug Juice (yes, that’s the actual
name) is a Muscat-based wine with a very slight frizzante or residual carbonation that has the
same alcohol content as a lot of beers – just 6 percent! Therefore you could practically indulge in
the whole bottle without any of the alcohol-induced side effects associated with other
beverages… not that I’m encouraging you to do so.
But I am encouraging everyone to break out the grills and participate in some summertime grillin’!
Summertime Cookin' Two