Merits of marination

Columns What's Cooking?

August 24, 2014

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Marinades pull double duty in the kitchen: they tenderize and enhance flavor. For Sue Maiava, co-owner of Lili’s BBQ, “enhance” is the key word, and her marinade recipes do just that. They bring out meat’s goodness, without overpowering it.

Maiava uses recipes gleaned from her previous 16 years of experience working in a local Korean restaurant. She’s adapted the recipes to ensure the natural flavors of the ingredients she uses don’t get lost in the mix. For instance, at her husband’s request, she pared down a kimchee recipe — house-made with no MSG, like everything else she serves — to minimize the pungent condiment’s lingering effects. “There’s no strong flavors,” she explains. “It’s more mild.”

Her food is more mild perhaps, but not dull. Such is the case with BBQ Chicken ($8). The boneless, skinless chicken thighs, a generous portion of four or more, pick up a slight sweetness and shiny glaze from 24 hours of marination with a little honey, and a smoky flavor from minutes on the grill. Grilling, Maiava shares, is a balancing act between keeping meat juicy while achieving a good char. It all comes down to the “right temperature,” she says. Kal Bi ($10.50) also takes a turn on the grill. The traditionally prepared short ribs slices turn out with a tender yet satisfying chew.

Enrobed in Maiava’s own chili paste, Spicy Pork ($8.50) embodies a different kind of heat. Maiava assures the spice level is manageable though. “It’s a medium hot. If you can eat kimchee, you can eat spicy pork,” she says. Again, the meat is marinaded before grilling, and the little bit of fat left on the cuts of meat add flavor and juiciness.

Co-owner and Sue’s husband Filipo also knows a thing or two when it comes to juiciness and flavor. He’s a smoker — of meats, that is. Filipo prepares Smoked Brisket ($9.75) and Smoked Pork Ribs ($9.75) off-site using a technique he brought back to the Islands after a trip to Texas. The meats cook for up to 10 hours in a hefty smoker until they are fork-tender. Even though smoking is a different cooking method altogether — and a departure from tradition for a Korean spot — the eatery, like with any of its other offerings, does it with care.

Lili’s BBQ

2300 N. King St.
Monday, 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed Sunday

Honolulu, HI 96819

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best