Celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon’s recipe for Hawaiian-style Mochiko Fried Chicken

We first became enamored with Sheldon Simeon on “Top Chef: Seattle” in season 10, when the Hilo-born celebrity chef emerged not only as a finalist but with the coveted “fan favorite” title to boot. Since then, he’s collected accolades — including Food & Wine magazine’s top new chefs for 2014 and a second “Top Chef” finalist/fan favorite nod — as well as restaurant credits.

Now Simeon has gathered all his beloved family recipes – including how-tos for such favorites as the Mochiko Fried Chicken he serves at Maui’s casual Tin Roof – into one volume, “Cook Real Hawaii” (Clarkson Potter, $35). The book came out in 2021, offering tropical flavors and a dash of escapism in the form of poke, garlic shrimp and malasadas in the midst of the pandemic.

Co-written with Garrett Snyder and photographed by Kevin J. Miyazaki, the book showcases the food he feeds his ‘ohana — his family and friends — which combines Hawaiian, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese and Japanese inspiration.  Take mochiko chicken, for example, which echoes Japanese karaage, Korean dak kang jung and, of course, a little U.S. Southern flair, too. It’s the most popular item on the Tin Roof menu, Simeon says,

“Top Chef” alum Sheldon Simeon and his wife, Janice, inside their Tin Roof restaurant in Kahului, Maui. (MiekoHorikoshi/Tin Roof)

What began as “a stripped-down version like what locals bring to parties and potlucks,” Simeon says, soon evolved into “the maximalist, ultimate, supreme version you see here, drizzled with two finishing sauces and showered with fried garlic, furikake and mochi crunch.” He serves it over rice, with salt-pickled cabbage on the side.

Here’s a taste:

“Cook Real Hawaii” by Sheldon Simeon

Mochiko Fried Chicken

Serves 4 to 6


¾ cup mochiko (sweet rice flour)

¼ cup plus ¾ cup cornstarch, divided use

½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons sake

2 tablespoons kochujang (Korean chili paste)

2 pounds boneless, skin-on chicken thighs

Neutral oil, for deep-frying

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons garlic salt

Cooked rice, for serving

Kochujang Aioli (recipe follows)

Su-Miso Sauce (recipe follows)

¼ cup furikake

½ cup arare (rice crackers), crushed into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons fried garlic

Chopped scallions


In a medium bowl, whisk together the mochiko, ¼ cup cornstarch, the salt and sugar. Ina small bowl, whisk together the eggs, shoyu, ginger, sake, kochujang and 2 tablespoons water.

Stir this into the dry ingredients until mixed, then add the chicken and toss thoroughly with your hands to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).

When you’re ready to fry, remove the marinated chicken from the fridge. Prepare a wire rack or line a baking sheet with paper towels. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet with at least 2 inches of oil, making sure to leave a few inches of clearance from the pot’s rim. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350°F (use a thermometer), adjusting the heat as needed to maintain temperature.

While the oil is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic salt and remaining ¾ cup cornstarch. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess batter drip off, and dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture, taking your time and making sure every wet spot is coated and absorbed. Shake off any excess flour and transfer the chicken to a plate.

Working in batches so as not to crowd the pot, fry the thighs until deep golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove and let cool on the wire rack or paper towels.

When ready to serve, cut the chicken lengthwise and then crosswise into bite-size pieces. Serve the chicken over a bed of rice and drizzle with the kochujang aioli and su-miso sauce.

In a small bowl, toss the furikake, rice crackers and fried garlic together and sprinkle over the chicken. Top with scallions.

Kochujang Aioli

Makes about ½ cup


1 tablespoon kochujang (Korean chili paste)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, grated

½ cup mayonnaise

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients with a teaspoon of water until incorporated.

Su-Mi So Sauce

Makes about ½ cup


1 tablespoon sake

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon white (shiro) miso

Directions: In a small saucepan, stir together the sake, mirin and sugar. Bring to a boil, cooking until the smell of alcohol goes away, and the sauce starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the miso until dissolved. Let cool before using.

Fried Garlic

Makes about 1½ cups


8 ounces peeled garlic (about 1½ cups or 25 cloves)

Neutral oil, for frying

Kosher salt

Directions: Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely minced. Fill a medium-width, deep-sided pot halfway with water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Transfer the garlic to a sieve and submerge in the hot water, blanching for about 2 minutes. Remove and dunk the garlic in the ice water until cooled, then drain well and spread evenly onto the lined baking sheet. Bake until the garlic is dry to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a pot with at least 2 inches of oil, making sure to leave a few inches of clearance from the top. Heat the oil over medium high until it reaches 350°F (use a thermometer). Add the garlic and fry until the bubbles begin to subside, and the garlic turns golden and rises to the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the fried garlic back to the paper towels and let cool completely. Season generously with salt, then transfer to a sealable container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks. (Reserve the garlic-flavored frying oil for future use.)

— Reprinted with permission from “Cook Real Hawai’i” by Sheldon Simeon andGarrett Snyder, copyright © 2021. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, animprint of Penguin Random House.