A Hawaiian plate lunch is regularly based around a rich protein, mayo-based salad, rice and pickled and/or fresh vegetables. It’s the surrounding countries that have influenced the classic plate lunch for something that is both familiar and truly unique to residents and visitors, echoing Hawaii’s diverse population.

The variations of the key components are as widespread as they are delicious. In this version, the meal is made with a mayo-based macaroni salad, shoyu chicken, pickled cabbage (or coleslaw) and sticky rice. But don’t be tied to what you see here. Try the plate lunch concept with pulled pork, teriyaki beef, fried spam, beef curry, or soft-set eggs. You can even add more than one protein on a plate if that’s what appeals to you. Mayo-based potato salad can replace macaroni salad, and short-grain brown rice or black rice can replace white rice. Kimchi can stand in for coleslaw or pickled vegetables, and so on. Make the Hawaiian lunch your own, and have guests customize their plate at your next BBQ – or luau! 

Hawaiian Plate Lunch with Shoyu Chicken and Macaroni Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Shoyu Chicken
1 cup water
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, sliced
1 red Thai chili, sliced
1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp cornstarch  

Macaroni Salad
8 oz elbow macaroni
Salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp pickle juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 dill or sweet pickles, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 Tbsp finely diced sweet onion
½ tsp granulated sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste

For Serving
Vinaigrette coleslaw, pickled cabbage or pickled vegetables (kimchi, pickled daikon, etc.)
Cooked sticky rice, warm
Fresh herbs or microgreens

Directions:

Shoyu Chicken
1. In a large high-sided skillet, combine water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, ginger and chili. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add chicken in a single layer, submerging in the sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is tender. 

2. Transfer chicken only to a foil-lined baking sheet and position oven rack in the top third. Preheat broiler to medium-high. For the sauce, remove large chunks of ginger and garlic. Transfer a spoonful or two of sauce to a small bowl and whisk in cornstarch. Bring sauce to a boil, then, whisking constantly, add the cornstarch mixture and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute to thicken. Keep warm.

3. Broil the chicken for 5 to 8 minutes, keeping an eye on it if your broiler runs hot, until burnished on the outside. Transfer chicken back into the thickened sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

Macaroni Salad
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Allow to drain very well.

2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, add cooked and drained macaroni, and mix to combine. Season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assembly
To build your plate, add a mound of sticky rice, scoop of macaroni salad, portion of coleslaw or pickled vegetables and chicken thighs. Garnish with herbs or microgreens, and dig in!

For more Hawaiian dish inspiration, check out these 10 tasty places to eat poke in Canada, or whip up Lynn Crawford’s Hawaiian fish tacos and Ree Drummond’s grilled pineapple burger – both summer staples, as far as we’re concerned!