Teri Chicken On My Mind

Columns Ono, You Know

August 27, 2017

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines comfort food as “food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” In other words, it’s those dishes that tug at our heartstrings and make us feel warm and fuzzy with each bite. For most diners, including myself, comfort food is linked to our childhoods, and those flavors we grew up with seem to bring more solace than any others. Here in Hawaii, teriyaki chicken offers a quintessential bite of comfort, and many of us have been devouring it since our small-kid-time days.

Though you’ll find teriyaki chicken in both casual and upscale restaurants, my favorite way to enjoy it remains straight out of the Styrofoam box of a plate-lunch hole in the wall:

LAVERNE’S HAWAIIAN AND LOCAL STYLE FOOD

It doesn’t get better than teri chicken with two scoops rice and mac salad — I mean, that’s practically plate lunch heaven. So when you’re in the mood for that classic mix, head to Laverne’s Hawaiian and Local Style Food at Newtown Driving Range.

Teri Chicken Plate from Laverne’s Hawaiian And Local Style Food ($8.50 regular)

Teri Chicken Plate ($8.50 regular) features the exact combo mentioned above, though you can substitute the mac salad for tossed salad if you’d like. To make the dish, chicken thighs are baked slowly in the oven “so they’re very tender,” describes owner and general manager Travis Paulo, and they have that golden brown skin to give them even more flavor when they cook.

Though this plate lunch may sound pretty standard, the love that goes into it makes it stand out from the competition. That aloha stems from the fact that Paulo and his ohana have been serving up their family recipes to customers since his parents started Laverne’s in 2000.

It’s no surprise, then, that everything is made in house, including the delectable teriyaki sauce used in the dish, which is prepared with a traditional mix of shoyu, sugar, garlic and ginger. Paulo notes that a Mini Teri Chicken Plate also is available for $7, and if patrons would like to get their utensils on even more teriyaki goodness, try Laverne’s new teri burger. (Regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers also are new to the menu.)

In addition to the Newtown location, you can find Laverne’s lunch wagon in Waikele, and the company also offers catering.

KAU KAU GRILL

An increasingly popular place to get plate lunch these days is Kau Kau Grill. Visit the quaint Mapunapuna eatery and you’ll find a concise menu of local-style creations, including Barbecue Baby Back Ribs and Pulehu Short Ribs.

Fried Saimin Combo with Teri Chicken ($10) from Kau Kau Grill

Regardless of what you order, you’re in for a flavor-packed experience. And when it comes to teriyaki chicken, there are a few ways to chow down on this favorite at Kau Kau. Order the sweet-and-savory poultry in a plate lunch with rice and spaghetti-mac or tossed salad for $10, keeping in mind that you can upgrade to the unique and popular barbecue-style Krazy Rice for $1 more.

According to co-owner Miles Oyasato, however, the most popular way to enjoy teri chicken at Kau Kau is with the Fried Saimin Combo, also $10, which comes with a base of addicting green onionand fishcake-speckled noodles, as well as rice and mac or tossed salad.

Kau Kau’s approach to the chicken itself is to use boneless, skinless thighs that go through a long marination process before they are freshly grilled to order. The teriyaki flavor — plus a few secret seasonings — are thus infused into the chicken, so no extra sauces or flavorings are needed. Last, but not least, the rustic char of the grill perfectly contrasts the sweet notes of the teri marinade, making for a truly irresistible bite.

“It’s a go-to — everyone loves teri chicken,” says Oyasato. “Ours lives up to the local standard.”

In addition to the Mapunapuna Street shop, Kau Kau Grill has a food truck at Hawaii Foreign Trade Zone (521 Ala Moana Blvd., Pier No. 2) and offers catering.

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