I’ll Shoyu And Your Little Dog Too! Shoyu Chicken with Coconut Rice and Grilled Veggies


I always know when it’s summer cuz the brown sugar supply in my pantry magically disappears. While I do bake a lot year round (apparently the marriage vows included a clause that if the hubster bikes to work he gets fresh baked goods every 5 days) that molasses-y sugar gets sucked straight into marinades for grilling season. Seriously though, this meal can be served year round as long as you don’t mind getting a little wet (or snowy) grilling in the winter or you have an stovetop grill griddle. Despite using the Japanese word for soy sauce, shoyu chicken is actually a Hawaiian dish that is a riff on teriyaki for those with a sweet tooth and a love of ginger. The nice thing about this dish is that you can easily cook it on a weeknight or triple it for a party. Most of the prep work is done before the guests even think of arriving so as long as you can grill and talk at the same time you won’t be running around like a chicken with your head cut off when the doorbell starts ringing. I like the addition of coconut milk to the rice because just a small amount gives it a rich coconutty flavor.

Help for the hungry:
1) Just like you don’t want to use Ripple, also quaintly referred to as “bum wine,” in your marinade, there is also a noticeable flavor difference among soy sauces. Two brands that I’m particularly fond of are Pearl River Bridge Light Soy Sauce, which is Chinese, and Yamasa which is Japanese. They both have a smooth flavor without that harshness and bitter after-taste that you can taste with other soy sauces. Not that I go around swilling soy sauce but you know what I mean.
2) Like many people I’ve discovered the wonders of marinating in a plastic zip bag. Just plop all your ingredients in the bag, everything is immersed with a minimum of liquid due to the fact that you can get air out of the bag which not only conforms to the shape of your food but also takes up much less valuable real estate in the refrigerator cuz you can just lay it down in a corner. The biggest pitfall with this method is the potential for disaster if the bag tips while you’re trying to pour your ingredients into it. I like to place a gallon bag in a large mixing bowl and then fill it with my ingredients. This way, even if the liquids slosh around the bowl keeps the bag from tipping over. And even though most bags have a dual zipper closure I still like to lay the bag flat on the refrigerator shelf and fold over the zip closure so it lays on top of the bag just in case I didn’t squeeze the zipper tight even though I checked it 3 times cuz yes, I’m a little OCD. Just a little.
3) While I love the addition of a little coconut milk to my rice every once and a while, like most people I have a hard time finishing an entire can before it needs to be dumped even if I refrigerate the rest in a tupperware right away. Fortunately coconut milk freezes very well. You can make coconut milk “ice cubes” and then put them in a zip bag in the freezer to be doled out the next time you want to add a little oomph to your rice.
4) When grilling veggies, cut them at least 1/2-2/3 of an inch thick so they can withstand the heat of the grill. Even if your grill is perfectly non-stick, thin slices can literally fall apart as you’re trying to flip or move them which is a total bummer :(.
5) Can you boil down the marinade and use it as a sauce cuz it tastes so good and why waste a good thing? Um, nope. Salmonella and campylobacter bacterial contamination is very common in raw poultry with some studies citing involvement 67-80% of chicken in grocery stores. Well, yeah but boiling the marinade should kill bacteria, right? The problem is that salmonella also produces a heat-stable toxin that can withstand 30 minutes of boiling. Safer to make a half batch of marinade and set it aside to be turned into a sauce.
6) Is there such a thing as overmarinating? Yup. If you use a salty marinade, like this one, over time the salt will start to cure the meat making it tough so overnight is about the longest you can marinate with this type or marinade without getting shoyu jerky. Acidic marinades work by denaturing or unwinding the proteins so over time this can result in moisture loss from your meats giving you a dry, tough meat. Enzyme-based marinades like papain (derived from papaya), pineapple, and kiwi actually break down proteins so too much time marinating will give you a mushy texture.
7) Make this gluten-free by using tamari soy sauce with no wheat in the ingredients (not all tamari is wheat-free).

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat and veins removed
4 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp crushed ginger
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp Sambal Oelek, a chili paste (I like Huy Fong brand which has only chilis so it won’t change the flavor of your food)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c water
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c sake

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a gallon zip bag. I like to stand the bag up in a mixing bowl so that it’s less likely to tip over and spill marinade everywhere :(. Close bag and squeeze to mix contents. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours but no longer than 8-10. Since the chicken thighs are relatively thin, they can be cooked over direct heat on a BBQ (grey-red coals if you’re using briquettes) for about 2-3 minutes per side. You can also use a stovetop grill griddle and cook on medium to med-hi heat. I do not re-apply marinade while grilling because the chicken is plenty juicy as well as sugary marinades will simply burn giving you a charred crust on your meat. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes then cut into 1/2-inch strips with kitchen scissors.

Grilled Vegetables
2 large zucchini, skin on and cut into 1/2-3/4 inch lengthwise slices
2 large yellow summer squash, skin on and cut into 1/2-3/4 inch thick, lengthwise slices
1 tbsp olive oil

Brush olive oil on one side of zucchini and squash. Grill oil side down for 30-45 seconds per side, just enough to get grill marks and soften a little. Oil side facing up then flip over and grill for another 30-45 seconds. Remove from heat and cut into 3 inch lengths.

Coconut Rice
2 c white rice (I prefer Thai jasmine rice)
2 1/4 c water
1 tbsp low fat coconut milk

While the grill is heating up cook the rice in a rice cooker or over the stove covered on low heat. I rinse out my rice a couple times till the water is mostly clear before adding the water and coconut milk as there is rice powder/dust that while edible will give you that spidery web after the rice is cooked.

Shoyu Sauce
1/2 c water
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp crushed ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp Sambal Olek
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar

Add all ingredients to a small pot and simmer on medium heat till volume is reduced by 1/2 to 2/3 depending on how thick you like your sauce. I like mine on the thicker side so I cook it down to half ~ 15-20 minutes. Serve over chicken and rice to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings.

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)


  1. Sophie

    Gonna try this on the boys this week! Wish me luck!!

    • Cam

      Fingers crossed 😉 Actually, this recipe is pretty bulletproof. Just be careful not to let the glaze/sauce overboil when you’re reducing it & I’m sure Gary is well versed in grilling or you can use a meat thermometer (165-70F for boneless chicken). Let me know how it turns out!

      We had the neighbors over for bún thịt nướng tonight 🙂

  2. Sophie

    Actually, Mike is the grill master. Last time Gary did it, I had to sneak the meat back on the grill when he went to take a shower just before dinner (didn’t want him to feel bad)!

    • Cam

      I’m sure Gary enjoyed not being blinded by smoke. I swear no matter where I stand it follows me around, but BBQ is more delicious with tears streaming down my face, right? So how did shoyu chicken Labor day turn out?

  3. Sophie

    Gonna try it for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes. BTW, should I cut back on the ginger so that it won’t taste too gingery? I can stand a little ginger taste but not if it’s over-powering.

    • Cam

      I can taste the ginger but wouldn’t call it overpowering. If you really don’t like ginger, I’d keep the same amount in the marinade and cut amount in the glaze by 1/2 since you’re going to get the majority of your ginger taste from that. Good luck 🙂

  4. Sophie

    WOW! That turned out really well!! The guys loved it! I didn’t have any sake or mirin but it was still delicious. I’m glad I cut half the ginger in the glaze, I think it would have been too strong for my taste. The glaze was perfect this way. Thanks for the great recipe!

  5. Kitty

    I am marinating right now. I used mirin instead of sake and breasts instead of thighs. Very excited for dinner in a few hours! X K.

    • Cam

      Mirin will work fine. You may have to pound out the breasts a little if you’re grilling as they can be pretty thick these days–enhanced chicken breasts 😉

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