Today is King Kamehameha’s Birthday, (Kam Day, to us folks who live here) so I am up for sharing a special Hawai‘ian recipe to celebrate! In case you didn’t know, King Kamehameha was the monarch who united the Hawai‘ian Islands, back in the 19th century. It’s a state holiday, so if you’re a working person, it’s a nice little break between Memorial Day and The Fourth of July. There is a big floral parade on the Saturday closest to June 11th, with lots of pageantry, marching bands, and pa‘u riders.
Pa‘u riders are beautiful Hawaiian women dressed in 19th Century riding gowns on horseback, bedecked with lei and other floral arrangements.
The Honolulu King Kamehameha statue on his birthday celebration, 2009
It’s a lot of fun to go downtown and check out the Kamehameha statue to see it bedecked in lei, too.
Chicken Long Rice
Anyway I’d like to celebrate by having a dish that’s usually a staple at a modern-day luau. It’s called chicken long rice, and it’s easy for someone like me to make, since I can’t dig an imu to roast a pig on our lanai. Most of the people reading this should be able to find these ingredients, which makes it more fun for everyone. If you have trouble, check your Asian food section at your local grocery.
Technically, chicken long rice really isn’t Hawaiian, but rather more Cantonese. The recipe came to the islands, back in the 1800s with the Chinese laborers, but the Asian influence has been so strong in Hawai‘i, people really don’t think twice about having a non-Hawai‘ian food, at a traditional Hawai‘ian feast. It is a kind of comfort food to many people, and you’ll soon see that it’s much like chicken soup, though there’s just enough liquid in the dish to float the noodles, rather than they be “swimming” in it.
Mung bean thread (long rice)
Just make sure that you are buying “long rice,” rather than Asian vermicelli noodles, which are opaque. The are two different things. You want the ones that look more like cellophane.
Shitake mushrooms, celery, and carrots make chicken long rice much healthier
This recipe is even more non-traditional, since I like having a few more veggies in mine. This is an adaptation of Sam Choy’s recipe, which suits me better. If you’d like to try, you’ll need:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs~ that’s about 2 large ones
2½ cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
½ medium sweet onion, (Maui, if possible) minced (I used one small one… same thing)
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced cross-wise
6 ounces mung bean noodles (also known as cellophane noodles or long rice)
salt to taste
6 scallions, sliced cross-wise
Place the long rice into a large bowl, cover with warm water, and let it soak for an hour. Meanwhile, place the chicken breasts in a pan, cover with water and boil until just cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool, at least enough to be able to handle it.
Julienne or slice these thinly
While the chicken is cooking, (and cooling) chop the veggies. Everything should be thinly sliced.
Slice mushrooms thinly, too
Make sure you remove the stems from the shitake mushrooms, also… they are somewhat toxic, while the rest of mushroom is fine. If you can’t find fresh ones, dried ones are fine also, though you’ll need to reconstitute them.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add in the ginger, celery and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and stir. Allow the veggies to cook in the broth for a few minutes.
The last things you want to add are the chicken, long rice and green onion. Drain the long rice and cut into smaller pieces. I usually snip handfuls of the slippery stuff with kitchen shears, otherwise you’ll never get a spoonful~ it’s worse than spaghetti! Stir in the chicken, long rice and garnish with the green onions. Make sure you taste the broth and adjust salt to taste.
You can add additional onions as a garnish if you wish.
Simple, comfort food, for many
If it needs more seasoning, a dash of shoyu (soy sauce) and/or hot sauce (better yet, if you can access some chili pepper water) will usually do the trick.
A tasty spoonful
Have a great “Kam Day” and Aloooooooha!