During a much-needed vacation in Hawaii, we road tripped up to the north shore, to the surf community of Haleiwa. There, just off the Kamehameha highway that leads into town, adjacent the Malama supermarket, there’s a dusty gravel lot. This is the weekend home to Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken. Their operation moves around between several locations, but it’s here in Haleiwa on weekends.
It’s a pretty simple operation, a couple of tents, one with a simple outdoor kitchen, and a huge wood burning grill, with numerous rotisserie skewers loaded with whole chickens. Among the local’s its often-called huli-huli chicken (huli-huli being the Hawaiian expression meaning “round-and-round”).
Kiawe is a type of tree that’s been cultivated in the islands for centuries, and has some similarities to mesquite, once dried, it makes for good firewood, and when used for grilling, it imparts a slightly sweet smokey flavor.
In pre-covid times, Ray’s provided tents with picnic benches, but not now. It’s take away only these days.
The menu is pretty simple. It’s either half or a whole chicken, and side dishes of plain white rice, “grandma’s sauce”, and pineapple coleslaw, and beverages.
We ordered a whole chicken (cut up), a side of pineapple coleslaw, and a cup of grandma’s sauce.
The chicken is roasted whole, on a spit over the hot kiawe wood fire, until its cooked through. Then it’s chopped up and served. This is very good chicken. It’s savory and cooked perfectly all the way through, but still juicy (even the breast meat)
From what I can tell, the chicken is brined or marinated, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and (I’m guessing) paprika.
The pineapple slaw (not pictured) appears to be shredded green and red cabbage, with chunks of fresh pineapple, and a little mayonnaise sweetened with pineapple juice.
The “grandma sauce” appears to be mostly shoyu and vinegar. If there’s anything else in there, the other ingredients are masked. My sense is that the chicken is pretty tasty by itself, and this sauce is not really necessary.
Since it’s a take out operation, the service is quite minimal.