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How to make Hawaii-style barbecue (teriyaki) sauce. A recipe.

hawaii_style_barbecue_teriyaki_sauce_recipeBarbecue sauce in Hawaii is not the same as barbecue sauce in the Mainland U.S.

Order a barbecue mixed-plate lunch at a casual Hawaii eatery and it’s doubtful you’ll get a heaping helping of smoked chicken or ribs slathered with sweet-and-tangy reddish-brown sauce. And don’t expect corn on the cob, coleslaw, baked beans or rolls on the side either.

What you will get, probably piled on a bed of white rice and accompanied by a scoop of macaroni salad or tossed salad, is a large platter of grilled meat or chicken, sweet-and-tangy from a marinade of shoyu (soy sauce), sugar, and fresh garlic and ginger. It’s often called Hawaiian barbecue sauce—or teriyaki sauce—on the Mainland.

Done right, neither sauce is a cut above the other. But the thick, smoky-spicy-tangy variety isn’t the kind of barbecue sauce a number of HAWAII Magazine readers have begged us to find them a great recipe for.

We’ve finally got one—straight out of a new book called Kau Kau: Cuisine and Culture in the Hawaiian Islands. “Kau kau” is the go-to Hawaii pidgin word for food, likely derived from the Chinese phrase “chow chow.” Kau Kau, the book, is all about Hawaii food. In particular, the astounding mix of foods first brought to the Islands by multi-ethnic immigrant sugar and pineapple plantation laborers more than a century ago that are still popular Hawaii comfort foods today.

The book, by Hawaii writer Arnold Hiura, covers a good deal of the history and stories of favorite Hawaii foods (from entrees to snacks to desserts). Hiura speaks with chefs, foodies and farmers about local cuisine and includes lots of great photos of the Islands’ most beloved foods.

hawaii_style_barbecue_teriyaki_sauce_recipeKau Kau, the book, also shares some of the best family recipes for favorites like adobo, chop steak, fried rice, saimin (fried and in broth), beef stew, manapua, shrimp curry, laulau, local-style soybeans, Portuguese bean soup.

Kau Kau: Cuisine and Culture in the Hawaiian Islands won’t be in bookstores or online retailers until January. But you can order a copy direct from the publisher, HAWAII Magazine sister company Watermark Publishing, here. Regularly priced at $32.95, Watermark is offering a special pre-order price of $30 and express holiday shipping until December 15.

On the following pages you’ll find an excerpt from Kau Kau about Hawaiian-style barbecue (teriyaki) sauce, followed by a terrific family recipe for the marinade that you can make at home.


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