The famous Kagawa prefecture specialty, Honetsukidori (Grilled Seasoned Chicken Maryland), looks just like a roasted chicken maryland, but it has a rich and spicy flavour with plenty of garlic and ground pepper. The aroma from the chicken is irresistible.
When I travelled Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of Japan) in February this year, I had Honetsukidori at a restaurant called Ranmaru (蘭丸) in Takamatsu City, Kagawa prefecture. As soon as I ate a piece of chicken, I knew I had to post this recipe. It was so delicious.
Today’s dish does not have the subtle flavour and an elegant presentation of a traditional Japanese dish. To start with, it uses a lot of garlic and white pepper. Although it originated in Japan, this is definitely a Yōshoku (Western-style Japanese dish).
The name ‘honetsukidori’ (骨付鳥) means chicken with bone in, which only tells you about the main ingredient and does not explain what this is all about.
It might be quite normal in Western cuisine to serve a piece of chicken with the bone intact or a large piece of chicken fillet. But in Japan, meat is usually cut into bite size pieces without bones (unlike serving grilled whole fish!) allowing you to pick them up with chopsticks to eat. So, by Japanese standards today’s dish is a rather unique way of serving chicken.
Honetsukidori originated in the early 1950s from an Izakaya owner in Marugame City, Kagawa prefecture.
The proprietor was watching a Hollywood movie on TV and saw a female movie star biting off a piece of fried chicken in a scene. The proprietor thought he wanted to serve such a lavish dish for customers to enjoy. After much trial and error, he finally perfected Honetsukidori.
In Kagawa, there are two specialty restaurants that are famous for Honetsukidori. One of them is Ikkaku (一鶴), which is the original and started serving Honetsukidori in 1953. They have quite a few branches in several cities.
The other restaurant is Ranmaru in Takamatsu City where I went. Ranmaru is quite new compared to Ikkaku. They have been in business for only 20 years and there are no branches. But Ranmaru’s special seasoning appears to attract many customers.
Ikkaku and Ranmaru have their own flavouring for the chicken, and the atmosphere of the restaurants are quite different too. Ranmaru restaurant is rustic and izakaya-style, while Ikkaku restaurants are spacious and modern.
At both restaurants, you get to pick Honetsukidori made with either young chicken or adult chicken. Young chicken is very tender and juicy, while you can enjoy the texture with adult chicken.
Honetsukidori comes with plenty of chicken-flavoured oil poured over the chicken and cabbage pieces on the side. The idea is to dip the cabbage in the oil and eat it.
What’s in My Honetsukidori (Grilled Seasoned Chicken Meryland)
Honetsukidori is unique because of the chicken oil, which is made from chicken skin. My flavouring includes dashi powder, which adds umami to the chicken. The rest of the ingredients are quite standard for cooking meat.
- Chicken maryland
- Grated garlic
- Ground white pepper
- Dashi powder
- Soy sauce (optional)
- Chicken Oil (made from the ingredients below)
You can use black pepper instead of white pepper. Black pepper will create darker patches on the chicken when grilled. Instead of dashi powder, you can add MSG as many recipes do.
I made Honetsukidori with and without soy sauce, and my video does not include it. But I think the chicken tastes better with soy sauce. Ranmaru’s Honetsukidori certainly tasted a hint of soy sauce.
- Chicken skins cut into small pieces
- Garlic, smashed
- Ginger, smashed
You can buy chicken skin at chicken shops. Even if chicken skins are not regularly sold at shops, you may be able to buy them if you ask for it at the shop. I sometimes stock up chicken skins in the freezer whenever I buy chicken pieces with skin on, but the dish needs skinless chicken.
- Cabbage pieces
How to Make Honetsukidori (Grilled Seasoned Chicken Maryland)
There are three major steps. The first step is to season and marinate the chicken maryland overnight. The second step is to make the chicken oil. The last step is to cook the chicken. Watch the video.
- Butterfly chicken maryland and poke both sides of the leg with a fork.
- Rub in garlic, salt, dashi powder, pepper, and soy sauce (if using) all over the chicken.
- Place the chicken on a tray, cover with cling wrap, and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Making Chicken Oil
- Heat a wok or a deep-frying pan over medium heat.
- Put the chicken skin in and cook for about 15 minutes until the skin pieces becomes brown.
- Add garlic and ginger and cook 5 more minutes.
- Turn the heat off and drain through a sieve to collect chicken oil.
Depending on how fat your chicken skin is, the amount of chicken oil you get varies significantly. I only got about 100ml/3.4 fl oz of oil when I made it for the first time. But for the third time when I took this video, I extracted 150ml/5.1fl oz from the same weight of chicken skin. Obviously, they were very fatty skins.
Note: Don’t discard the browned chicken skins. They are crunchy and really tasty. Remove the ginger and garlic pieces and sprinkle a small amount of salt over the skins. They are perfect nibbles to go with drinks.
- Spread the chicken oil on a tray and place the chicken on it.
- Grill/broil for about 10 minutes, then turn it over. Cook further for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving plate, then pour the oil from the tray over the chicken.
- Serve with cabbage pieces on the side.
How to Eat Honetsukidori
A plate of Honetsukidori is accompanied with a pair of scissors and a piece of baking paper to wrap the chicken leg so you can hold it.
Using the scissors, cut the meat around the bones, perpendicular to the bone. Then cut it along both sides of the bone to remove chicken pieces, so that you can pick up each chicken piece with chopsticks.
There will be plenty of meat still stuck on the bones. Pick the bone up and bite into it. I think this is the best part of eating Honetsukidori.
I must admit that Honetsukidori is quite an oily dish, but the oil on Honetsukidori is packed with delicious flavours. In addition to the cabbage pieces accompanying the chicken, some restaurants serve a small onigiri (rice ball). You dip the rice ball in the chicken oil and eat it.
The quantity of chicken oil you will make is likely to be more than you need. You can use the chicken oil for stir frying, fried rice, and ramen. It will bring your dish one level closer to the restaurant flavour. For ramen, add chicken oil to the ramen flavouring base to give a good flavour and add several drops to the dish before eating.
Watch How To Make It
The famous Kagawa prefecture specialty, Honetsukidori (Grilled Seasoned Chicken Maryland) looks just like a roasted chicken maryland, but it has a rich and spicy flavour with plenty of garlic and ground pepper. The aroma from the chicken is irresistible. See the video.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 2 pieces chicken maryland (about 350g/0.8lb each, note 1)
- 4 tbsp chicken oil (made in this recipe)
- 2 tsp garlic grated
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp dashi powder
- 1 tsp ground white pepper (note 2)
- 1 tsp soy sauce (optional, but strongly recommended)
- 300g/0.7lb chicken skin cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 knob ginger (about 10g/0.4oz)
- Cabbage leaves cut into large bite size pieces
Place the chicken Maryland on a cutting board facing the inside of the leg up.
Using a sharp knife, make incisions along the bone.
From the opening made by the incisions, insert the tip of your knife between the bone and the flesh, then slide the tip of your knife along the bone so that the flesh detaches from the bone leaving the bottom part of the bones intact with the flesh.
Detach the flesh in the same way on both sides of the bones all the way (see the video). Repeat for the other chicken maryland.
Use a fork to poke holes on both sides of the chicken maryland.
Mix the salt and the dashi powder well.
Place the butterflied chicken maryland pieces on the cutting board and rub half of the grated garlic all over the surface of the chicken. Turn the chicken over and do the same with the rest of the garlic.
Rub half of the salt with dashi powder all over the chicken, then do the same on the other side of the chicken.
Sprinkle half of the pepper over the chicken and rub the surface. Do the same on the other side of the chicken with the remaining pepper.
If using soy sauce, sprinkle the soy sauce over the chicken flesh, and rub the soy sauce into the flesh.
Place the chicken pieces on a tray, cover the tray with cling wrap, and place it in the fridge for minimum 6 hours, preferably 1 day.
Using the side of the knife, smash the garlic and the ginger.
Heat a wok (or a deep-frying pan) over medium heat.
Put the chicken skin pieces into the wok and spread them as much as possible to minimise the overlap.
Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring the skins from time to time. As the oil comes out of the skins, the skin shrinks a lot and the colour changes to brown (note 4).
Add the garlic and the ginger to the wok and cook for further 5 minutes.
Turn the heat off and collect the chicken oil through a sieve (note 5).
Heat the oven griller/broiler to high.
If you have 2 small trays, cook a chicken on each tray. If not, use one larger tray.
Spread 2 tablespoons of Chicken Oil on each tray (total 4 tablespoons for 2 chickens). If using one tray, spread 2 tablespoons of Chicken Oil on right half area of the tray, another 2 tablespoons of the oil on the left half area. (Note 6)
Place each chicken on the oil, skin side down.
Place the trays under the grill/broiler, about 10cm/4" below the heat.
Cook for about 10 minutes until the surface of the chicken starts browning.
Turn the chicken over and cook on the skin side for about 10 minutes. The surface of the skin should start browning and become crunchy. Remove the trays from the oven grill.
Transfer the chicken to a serving plate, skin-side down.
Pour the oil accumulated in the tray over the chicken. Pile the cabbage pieces on the side.
Serve while hot, with a pair of scissors and a small piece of baking paper (or aluminium foil) to hold the leg.
Wrap the end of the leg with the paper/foil and hold it with your left fingers (for the right hander).
Using the scissors, cut the meat on both sides of the bones, perpendicular to the bone, with about 2.5cm/1" interval.
Then, cut the meat along the bones. As you cut, a bite-size chicken piece comes off the bone.
Dip the piece of chicken in the oil on the plate and eat it. You can also dip a piece of cabbage in the oil to eat. (Note 7)
At the end, grab the chicken bone and bite the meat off it. This is the best part.
1. Chicken maryland (or maryland chicken) is a cut of chicken leg that contains the thigh and drumstick connected together. It comes with skin on, which is needed for today’s dish.
The size of chicken can vary a lot, and it’s up to you what size chicken pieces you want to use as long as the amount of seasonings is adjusted accordingly.
2. You can use black pepper if you don’t have white pepper. Black pepper is hotter than white pepper, so you need to reduce the quantity. It will make the surface of the chicken blackish where the pepper is dense.
3. Depending on the fat that comes with the skin, the volume of chicken oil you can extract from the skin varies greatly. Even if the skin has minimum fat attached to it, 300g/0.7lb of skin should produce a sufficient amount of chicken oil that is required. My skin in the video produced 150ml/5.1fl oz of oil!
You can use excess chicken oil for stir frying, fried rice, and ramen. Add chicken oil to the ramen flavouring base as well as several drops to your ramen before eating.
4. As the skins get cooked, they becomes sticky. I used a wooden spatula to stir in the beginning, but I had to use a cutlery knife in the end. A stainless-steel spatula or a serving spoon would be the best to stir the chicken skin pieces.
5. The cooked chicken skin is very crunchy and flavoursome. Remove the garlic and ginger and transfer the skins to a small tray/bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over them. It’s so delicious and perfect with a beer.
6. Spread the oil wide enough to place your chicken maryland on.
7. Sometimes Honetsukidori is served with a small Onigiri (rice ball) without filling inside. The idea is to dip the rice in the flavoursome oil and eat it.
8. Nutrition per serving. It is assumed that 50% of the chicken oil is consumed.
serving: 271g calories: 656kcal fat: 51g (65%) saturated fat: 15g (75%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 11g monounsaturated fat: 22g cholesterol: 226mg (75%) sodium: 1338mg (58%) carbohydrates: 2g (1%) dietary fibre: 0.4g (1%) sugar: 0g protein: 43g vitamin D: 1mcg3% calcium: 34mg (3%) iron: 3.7mg (21%) potassium: 504 mg (11%)
A typical Japanese meal consists of a main dish, a couple of side dishes, a soup and rice. I try to come up with a combination of dishes with a variety of flavours, colours, textures and make-ahead dishes.
When I had Honetsukidori at Ranmaru restaurant in Kagawa prefecture, I also had a few side dishes such as a fresh cucumber dish to cleanse my palate and seaweed salad in vinegar dressing. So, I picked similar dishes to what I had for today’s meal idea.
I also decided to have Onigiri instead of a bowl of rice. My Onigiri recipe contains fillings, but you can actually make a smaller version of onigiri with nothing inside if you want, just like how people eat rice with Honetsukidori.
- Main: Honetsukidori (Grilled Seasoned Chicken Maryland) – marinate a day earlier.
- Side dish 1: Tataki Kyuri (Smashed Cucumber Salad) – or Japanese Pickled Cucumbers – two ways.
- Side dish 2: Tomato and Seaweed Salad with Sesame Soy Dressing – or other salad of your choice.
- Soup: Miso Soup of your choice from Miso Soup Ingredient Combinations or your favourite ingredients.
- Rice: Onigiri (Japanese Rice Ball) – make small rice balls with no filling inside and no nori wrapping.
Deb Cooper says
Amazing food! Evidently this talent runs in the family!
Congratulations to both of you!
Hi Deb, thank you very much!