A good friend of mine in Tongan, Kimiko, was married to one of the Royal Family, Baron Vaia. Kimiko lived in Hawaii for 20 years before coming to Tonga where she lived for 30 or more years. Many of the dishes she cooked for the Royal family have melted into the Tongan culinary repertoire. This recipe is adapted from Kimiko’s shoyu chicken dish. It combines Hawaiian shoyu (Japanese for soy sauce), Thai gra pow (holy basil), and kumquats. Kumquats are a miniature orange with a sweet rind and sour flesh and juice. They can be eaten out of hand and are a delicious addition to savory meat dishes. The seeds are bitter with lots of pectin, just like oranges and other citrus, great for jams and jellies but not for eating.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 8 chicken thighs with skin
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (or mirin)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 4 scallions, 3 chopped, 1 sliced for garnish
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 or 2 Thai red chilies, seeded and minced
- 8-10 Kumquats, halved and seeded
- 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
- 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
- 1/2 cup chopped basil (a few whole leaves for garnish)
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Salt and pepper chicken pieces liberally. Place in a Dutch oven or casserole dish.
- Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, water, and sugar, until sugar dissolves.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Pour over chicken.
- Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover, bake for an addition 20-30 minutes, glazing chicken with sauce every 10 minutes.
- Garnish with whole basil leaves and sliced scallions. Serve over rice.