Michael did something very nice for me the other day and I wanted to do something nice in return. So while he was out running errands yesterday, I put together one of his all-time favorite meals, a Hawaiian Plate Lunch with Katsu chicken. He loved this dish from the years he spent growing up in Oahu.
I tried to make Katsu chicken only once before and it did not go well. The chicken was all wrong and the sauce was horrible.
This time I relied on a jarred sauce, Bull Dog Brand, which Michael says is almost spot on taste-wise, to the Katsu sauce he grew up eating. I will try to make it from scratch again, but for now the jarred worked just fine.
The thing that really showed the most improvement from my first attempt was the chicken. It was moist and tender on the inside with a perfectly light and crunchy outer crust. We couldn’t stop eating it.
This time I also nailed the Hawaiian-style macaroni salad. If you’ve never eaten it, macaroni salad in Hawaii is just glorified pasta and mayonnaise. It is not at all like the stateside version with celery, onions, pickles, and hard-boiled egg. I am a big fan of the stateside version, but the Hawaiian style is growing on me. It lends itself well to the plate-lunch-style meal where everything is crammed onto the plate, or usually a styrofoam container. Macaroni salad’s somewhat bland island cousin let’s the other flavors on the plate stand out.
The last essential element of a plate lunch is a mound of sticky white rice.
Here are my recipes for Katsu Chicken and Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad. Aloha. Enjoy.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thirds lengthwise and pounded to a uniform ½" thickness
- Peanut oil or high heat sunflower oil for frying
- 2 eggs, beaten with a fork
- ¾ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper,
- ⅓ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2-3 cups Japanese panko bread crumbs (don't use Italian style bread crumbs!)
- Slice the chicken breasts into thirds lengthwise. Cover with plastic wrap and pound them to a uniform thickness of ½ inch. The cleanest way to do this is to place the chicken in a ziplock bag with the air squeezed out. I was able to get three slices into a quart sized bag. When I was done I just stored them in the bag in the fridge until ready to use.
- Make the egg wash for the chicken by combining the beaten egg, cornstarch, water, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic in a long pan. I used a glass loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Stir just before using to incorporate the cornstarch which may have settled to the bottom. Place all the chicken slices into the egg wash at once, or one at a time if you prefer. It was easiest just to soak them all at once.
- Pour the panko bread crumbs into a shallow pan. One at a time, pull the chicken pieces out of the egg wash and pat into the bread crumbs, coating both sides.
- Fry the chicken pieces in a large skillet, preheated with oil to medium high. Use just about a half in of oil up the side of the pan. Cook the chicken until it is lightly golden brown then flip over and cook the other side. Don't crowd them in the pan or they won't get crunchy. Don't walk away. These cook fast and burn easily.
- Remove the cooked pieces of chicken to a heated plate in a 200 degree oven until all the pieces are cooked. Serve immediately with a little Katsu sauce over the top and extra for dipping.
- ¾ pound elbow macaroni
- 1 large carrot, diced small
- 2 ounces flaked imitation crabmeat
- 1 cup mayonnaise (you may need to add more)
- Salt to taste
- White pepper to taste
- Boil the macaroni until al dente. Do not overcook it. It will continue to cook a bit until cooled and will soak up the mayonnaise and soften. Drain the pasta well and place uncovered in the refrigerator until completely cooled. You can hurry the process by stirring it around a couple of times while it's cooling.
- Peel and dice a carrot. Cook until barely tender but still crisp in a pan of boiling water. Drain well and cool in the fridge with the macaroni.
- When the macaroni and carrots are completely chilled, remove from the refrigerator and add the flaked imitation crabmeat. Stir in the mayonnaise. Taste. Add salt and pepper until it suits your taste. I deliberately did not salt the pasta water because the mayonnaise adds a lot of saltiness. You can always add more but you can't remove it. The amount of salt and pepper you add is entirely per your liking.
- Refrigerate until serving time. You will probably find that the macaroni has soaked up the mayonnaise and you may have to add more. Typically this style of macaroni sale is mayonnaise heavy. Again, this is entirely up to you.