Polynesian Chicken

December 23, 2022

The thoughts you’re having are correct. I know what you’re thinking: “Polynesian Chicken?”


All right, a brief caveat is in order. There is little resemblance between the Polynesian chicken served at the Holiday Inn luau and authentic Polynesian cuisine. No fish, taro, or other real Polynesian food stuff of which we know nothing.

And just to be clear, a luau does not consist of American Chinese food served on platters. The restaurant at the Holiday Inn served American Chinese food, and the Polynesian Luau was probably dreamed up by some creative soul at Holiday Inn corporate, but it was a hit with the guests. On summer weekends (and occasionally during the week), there would be a line stretching out the front door.


So, what exactly goes into that Polynesian chicken at the Holiday Inn?

Chicken breasts were batter-fried till crispy and served over shredded Chinese vegetables in a rich brown sauce.

Just as often as a group of five New Yorkers on vacation decided to partake in the Polynesian Luau for five was when someone bought Polynesian Chicken à la carte from the menu.

It’s very unusual, like many reader-requested recipes we’ve gotten. You probably won’t be able to find anything quite like this tidbit of 1975-era Chinese in the United States.



  • 8 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper


  • ¼ cup of all purpose flour
  • ½ cup of cold club soda (or beer)
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon of paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ⅛ teaspoon of salt


  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 cups of canola oil for frying
  • 4 cups of shredded napa cabbage
  • 1 cup of snow peas
  • ¾ cup of hot chicken stock or water
  • ½ cup of julienned red bell pepper
  • ½ cup of sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ cup of julienned bamboo shoots
  • 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of sugar
  • Freshly ground white pepper


  1. Remove the chicken’s skin and cut it into two even halves so that they are thinner but still nearly the same size. Season the chicken breasts with salt, white pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  2. Gather the necessary components for the batter and combine them in a basin. Ensure that the mixture is not over-stirred.
  3. Meanwhile, raise the temperature to 350 degrees F with 4 cups of canola oil in a small wok. If you want to make sure the batter doesn’t burn before the chicken is done cooking, use a candy thermometer.
  4. Cook the chicken in oil until it reaches 165 °F (about 2-3 minutes per side). To remove the excess oil, place the fried chicken on a wire rack.
  5. Cutting into a chunk to make sure the juices are clear (and not pink) is a good way to tell if the chicken is cooked through when you’re not sure. The chicken is already pre-cut into thin slices, making it simple to cook until it is tender and juicy. In order to make a delicious chicken dish, this is crucial.
  6. A tablespoon of the frying oil should be heated in the wok over high heat. Throw in some mushrooms, bamboo shoots, garlic, and red bell peppers, and give everything a quick stir-fry for around 30 seconds.
  7. First, pour in the Shaoxing wine, then stir in the napa cabbage. Stir in the soy sauces, salt, sugar, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and white pepper, and continue to stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  8. Stir in the snow peas and continue cooking. Pour in the simmering chicken stock. Toss the sauce in and turn up the heat until the liquid boils, then stir in the cornstarch slurry. To make a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon, stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  9. Move the veg mash to a serving dish. Cut the chicken into 1-and-a-half-inch broad strips and scatter them over the top of the vegetables.
  10. White rice should be served right away.
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