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What Is Pulehu Chicken and How to Prepare It?

What Is Pulehu Chicken?

Pulehu chicken is a classic Hawaiian dish that involves marinating chicken thighs in a blend of soyu, ginger, and lemon and grilling them over hot coals.

The marinade includes ingredients like soyu, ginger, sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt.

The dish is cooked for about 10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safety.

Pulehu chicken is known for its savory and tangy flavor and can be served with various side dishes.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Reheating can be done in the microwave or air fryer.

Quick Tips and Facts:

1. Pulehu chicken is a traditional Hawaiian dish, where “pulehu” refers to the cooking method of grilling the chicken over an open flame or hot rocks.
2. The term “Pulehu” in Hawaiian actually means “to broil” or “to toast,” indicating the unique cooking style used for this chicken dish.
3. Pulehu chicken is typically marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and other spices before grilling, enhancing its flavor and tenderness.
4. Historically, Pulehu chicken was cooked on large, flat lava rocks that were heated by fire in traditional Hawaiian earth ovens known as “imu.”
5. Pulehu chicken is often served alongside traditional Hawaiian side dishes like poi (taro root paste) or lomi-lomi salmon, creating a complete and authentic Hawaiian dining experience.

The Origins Of Pulehu Chicken

Pulehu chicken is a traditional Hawaiian dish rooted in Polynesian culture. The Hawaiian term “Pulehu” translates to “cook over hot coal,” reflecting the native Hawaiians’ centuries-old use of hot lava rocks for cooking. This method imparted a unique and delicious flavor to their dishes. Eventually, the technique evolved, and grills and other cooking equipment were incorporated while still staying true to the essence of Pulehu cooking.

Pulehu chicken has become a beloved staple in Hawaiian cuisine, appealing to both locals and tourists. It captures the essence of the Pacific islands’ flavors and showcases the vibrant culinary traditions of Hawaii. The dish’s popularity has spread beyond Hawaii, as numerous restaurants now offer their own takes on Pulehu chicken to meet the growing demand for authentic Polynesian flavors.

Key Features:

  • Pulehu chicken is a traditional Hawaiian dish with its roots in Polynesian culture.
  • The Hawaiian term “Pulehu” translates to “cook over hot coal.”
  • Native Hawaiians used hot lava rocks for cooking, which infused the dishes with a unique flavor.
  • Pulehu chicken combines traditional cooking techniques with modern grilling methods.
  • It perfectly captures the vibrant flavors of the Pacific islands and showcases the culinary traditions of Hawaii.
  • The dish has gained popularity outside of Hawaii, with many restaurants serving their own versions to meet the demand for authentic Polynesian flavors.

Ingredients And Marinating Process

To create the mouthwatering flavors of Pulehu chicken, a marinade consisting of various ingredients is used. The marinade typically includes soyu, a type of soy sauce commonly used in Hawaiian cuisine, which adds a savory and umami taste to the chicken. Fresh ginger and lemon juice are added to the marinade, imparting a refreshing tanginess to the dish. Sesame oil brings depth and richness, while garlic powder and salt enhance the overall flavor profile.

Preparing Pulehu chicken begins with marinating the chicken thighs for up to 24 hours. This allows the flavors to deeply penetrate the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender dish. The chicken thighs are generously coated in the marinade, ensuring that every bite is infused with the delicious blend of ingredients. This process of marinating the chicken is essential in creating the signature taste of Pulehu chicken.

  • Key ingredients for Pulehu chicken marinade:
  • Soyu (Hawaiian soy sauce)
  • Fresh ginger
  • Lemon juice
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

“Marinating the chicken thighs for up to 24 hours allows the flavors to deeply penetrate the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender dish.”

Cooking Pulehu Chicken

Once the chicken has been marinated, it is time to cook it to perfection. Pulehu chicken can be prepared on a grill or in a pan with the addition of sesame oil. The cooking process takes approximately 10 minutes, with the chicken being grilled for 5-7 minutes on each side. It is crucial to ensure that the internal temperature of the chicken reaches a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety.

The grilling process imparts a smoky, charred flavor to the chicken, while the marinade caramelizes, creating a delicious glaze. The result is succulent and juicy chicken with a slightly crispy exterior. The cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken thighs, so it is important to keep a close eye on the chicken to avoid overcooking.

Serving And Storing Pulehu Chicken

Pulehu chicken is incredibly versatile and can be served with a variety of side dishes. It pairs well with:

  • steamed rice
  • grilled vegetables
  • a fresh salad

The savory and tangy flavors of the chicken complement other tropical flavors, making it an excellent choice for a Hawaiian-themed feast.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to six months. To reheat the chicken, simply use a microwave or an air fryer. However, it is important to note that reheated chicken may not retain the same level of tenderness as when it was freshly cooked.

The Meaning Behind “Pulehu”

The word Pulehu holds significant meaning in Hawaiian culture. Beyond its literal translation of cook over hot coal, it represents a connection to the ancient cooking techniques of the native Hawaiians. It serves as a reminder of the rich history and traditions that have shaped the culinary landscape of the islands.

Pulehu cooking allows for a deeper appreciation of the flavors and ingredients used in Hawaiian cuisine. It showcases the simplicity and creativity of the island’s culinary heritage, reminding us of the importance of preserving these traditions for future generations.

Variations, FAQ, And Recommended Restaurants

Variations of Pulehu chicken can be found across different Hawaiian regions and restaurants. Some recipes may incorporate additional ingredients such as pineapple juice or coconut milk, adding a tropical twist to the dish. Others may choose to use different cuts of chicken or even substitute it with other proteins such as pork or fish.


Q: Can Pulehu chicken be prepared using other cooking methods?
A: While grilling is the traditional method, Pulehu chicken can also be cooked in an oven or broiled to achieve similar results.

Q: Can I use boneless chicken for Pulehu chicken?
A: Yes, boneless chicken thighs or even boneless chicken breasts can be used. Adjust cooking times accordingly to ensure thorough cooking.

Q: Is Pulehu chicken spicy?
A: The dish itself is not inherently spicy, but you can add chili flakes or hot sauce for an extra kick if desired.

Recommended Restaurants:

Mo’ Bettahs is a renowned Hawaiian restaurant that offers delicious and authentic Pulehu chicken. Their expert chefs meticulously prepare the dish according to traditional recipes, ensuring that you experience the true flavors of Hawaii. If you’re looking to indulge in the rich culinary heritage of the islands, Mo’ Bettahs should be at the top of your list.

In conclusion, Pulehu chicken is a mouthwatering Hawaiian dish that combines the flavors of soyu, ginger, and lemon to create a truly delightful culinary experience. Its origins trace back to the ancient cooking techniques of the native Hawaiians, and it has since become a beloved staple in Hawaiian cuisine. By following the marinating and cooking process, you can enjoy the savory and tangy flavors of Pulehu chicken either in the comfort of your own home or at a recommended Hawaiian restaurant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is smothered chicken made of?

Smothered chicken is a delicious dish consisting of tender fried chicken breasts that are coated in a rich and savory gravy, enhanced by the inclusion of crunchy bacon. The chicken breasts are cooked to perfection, maintaining their juicy texture, while the gravy adds an extra layer of flavor that complements the chicken beautifully. This delightful combination of crispy chicken and a flavorful gravy results in a mouthwatering dish that can easily rival any restaurant-made meal.

How long should you let chicken marinate?

The ideal marinating time for chicken depends on the cut and whether it has bones. Bone-in cuts, like wings and drumsticks, benefit from a longer marination period, ideally between 4 to 24 hours. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat more thoroughly, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful dish. On the other hand, boneless chicken pieces can be marinated for as little as 15 to 30 minutes and still yield tasty results, thanks to their smaller size and increased surface area.

Can you marinate chicken overnight?

Marinating chicken overnight can enhance the flavor and tenderize the meat. Many recipes suggest marinating for six to twenty-four hours, which allows the flavors to penetrate the chicken and make it more succulent. However, it is important to note that marinating for more than two days can lead to a deterioration in texture, as the enzymes in the marinade may break down the meat fibers, resulting in a mushy consistency. Therefore, while marinating chicken overnight is generally safe and beneficial, it is best to avoid an excessively long marinating time to maintain the desired texture and taste.

Why eat boneless chicken?

Boneless chicken offers a myriad of benefits that make it an appealing choice for many. Apart from being a convenient option for those who prefer to avoid bones, boneless chicken is a rich source of vitamin B5 and tryptophan. These nutrients play a crucial role in promoting relaxation and stress relief, making boneless chicken an ideal choice for those seeking a calming meal. Furthermore, boneless chicken breasts are also excellent sources of vitamin B6, a vital nutrient essential for the formation of important molecules and red blood cells in the body. Ultimately, indulging in boneless chicken not only guarantees a delectable meal but also contributes to one’s overall well-being.

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