Located next to Malama Market, in the heart of Haleiwa, Hawaii, on the North Shore of Oahu, you’ll see smoke pouring from the dirt parking lot (on the weekends).
You’ll get a blast of the aroma of fresh grilling chicken, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably lick your lips without even thinking about.
Approach the tent and trailer, and you’ll see a truly majestic display of chicken, slow roasting over charcoal, and sizzling away in a harmonious symphony.
The most amazing thing is the grill, which is created from a giant construction sized trailer bed.
It’s an absolute man-made wonder of a grill.
I think an entire flock of chickens can be cooked at the same time – it’s the chicken equivalent of that bus sized satay grill in Bangkok.
In Haleiwa, if you’re looking for fried chicken and SPAM musubi, you should eat here, but for grilled chicken, Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken is the place to go.
They’re famous for making Hawaiian style huli huli chicken.
The chicken is normally marinated in a blend of sweet and sour pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger, and perhaps a hint of chili or Siracha sauce.
At Ray’s, as the name suggests, the huli huli chicken is roasted over kiawe wood, which is the Hawaiian word for mesquite – a great wood for smoking and barbecuing – and it adds some lovely flavor to the chicken.
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There’s plenty of parking at Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken, it’s a big lot, though plenty of cars go in and out frequently.
You walk up to the main counter, and order from the simple menu that includes a whole chicken ($9.50), a whole chicken chopped in a foam box ($9.50), special sauce ($0.50), rice ($1), and pineapple coleslaw ($2).
I decided to get the whole chopped huli huli chicken, the special sauce, and pineapple coleslaw on the side.
After paying, the chicken is all ready to go and it just takes a few moments until you’re happily the proud owner of a Ray’s chicken.
The majority of customers will get their huli huli chicken for takeaway, but there are also two tables set up under a couple of tents where you can eat, if you’re lucky enough to grab a spare seat.
There are a lot more chickens and eaters than there are tables and seats – but when you’re in Haleiwa, it’s nice to get your chicken and go to the beach or the park.
The time I went to Ray’s, I was actually planning to sit there and gobble the entire chicken down myself right then and there, but since there wasn’t any seating, I wasn’t going to wait around, so I headed off to find a nice spot to eat.
Packed into the foam box, the chicken was neatly chopped, and served with that extra special sauce that I ordered.
The skin was golden brown, and the chicken itself was cooked nicely, not overdone.
Just take a look at the skin, shining in the light, and just packed with flavor.
The marinade wasn’t extremely strong, but just had enough of a sweet, sour, and light salty flavor to make it lip licking tasty.
The “special sauce”, which I ordered separately from the chicken, tasted to me, like a mixture of mostly shoyu and vinegar.
Dipping bits of the huli huli chicken into the sauce, was an excellent combination, the sauce was just salty enough to make it perfect, and that hint of sourness also added an extra touch of flavor.
I managed to eat the entire chicken myself in one sitting, without taking any breaks. Actually my wife had about 1 piece.
The Thai in me couldn’t help but want some som tam and sticky rice to go with this chicken though.
It wasn’t a huge chicken, but it sure was flavorful and cooked nicely. After downing the chicken, I felt quite fantastic, and felt a lot more like taking a nap than taking a swim.
As for the pineapple coleslaw, I’m not a huge fan of any kind of coleslaw really. This one was mostly sliced cabbage with small pieces of pineapple diced in. The dressing was mayonnaisey and quite sweet.
I enjoyed the chicken a lot more, but if you like coleslaw you’ll want to have the pineapple coleslaw as well.
How to get there:
Address: 66-160 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Open hours: 9 am – 5 pm only on Saturday and Sunday
Prices: $9.50 for a chicken
Just remember that Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken is only open on the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday.
Driving in Haleiwa, along the main Kamehameha highway, heading north you’ll see Malama Market on your right, and Ray’s is just to the side of it.