Simone Appetit: Go Mochiko this Fourth of July
Today, Simone Appetit brings you a taste of the islands. In fact, in the dead of winter, when I am homesick (Yes, I hail from Hawaii — don’t ask how I ended up in the Sierra, and yes I love it), I whip up a batch of this lunch wagon special and there I am … at the beach … my plate lunch nestled in my lap … my long (OK, semi-long) hair blowing in the trade winds … the waves and my sweet mochiko chicken beckoning.
Which one wins out? The chicken, hands down. With the Fourth of July just around the corner and many picnicking months ahead, this recipe is a must-have you will come to rely on over and over again. The mochiko, or rice flour (so hip and groovily gluten free) has a sweet taste which is off-set perfectly by the salty soy and the kick of the green onions and garlic.
It should be made ahead of time to allow the chicken to marinate overnight which makes is super easy for you on the day of your home gathering or it is terrific packed into a cooler for boating, decking or fishing outings. Traditionally, mochiko chicken is paired up with “two scoop rice” and some macaroni salad, but it holds its own without the carbs, which I have had enough of beginning in, like, October. (Damn that Halloween.)
I serve it with some room temperature vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and maybe some grapes, making it an entire hand-held meal. Don’t worry, your guests will probably put down the mochiko chicken long enough to applaud you.
5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (I sometimes sneak in a breast.)
1/4 cup mochiko sweet rice flour (Available at Safeway in the Asian section. Look for a white box.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons soy sauce
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
3 cups vegetable oil
Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. In a medium bowl, sift together mochiko flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Mix well. In a small bowl, combine eggs, soy sauce, and garlic. Whisk into dry ingredients. Add chicken to mixture. Fold in green onions, and sesame seeds if desired.
Marinate at least 4 hours; overnight is best. Heat your oil in a wok or deep frying pan to 350 degrees. Adding the chicken pieces will drop the temperature to about 285 degrees — that’s OK. Deep-fry the mochiko nuggets until golden brown, about five minutes.
Remove and drain on paper towel-lined cookie sheet or large platter. Enjoy hot, cold or at room temperature.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at email@example.com.