Lemon chicken skewers top a day of surfing in Hawaii

On a windy December afternoon, I drove to the far side of Oahu to take my first surfing lesson. I rented a palette with a purple floral design and lathered on sunscreen despite the clouds.

The waves in December are notoriously heavy on North Beach, but our beach was sheltered, and the waves were moderate enough for beginners. My instructor went through safety situations and protocols with me on the dry sand, and I was feeling confident I’d be standing up and riding the waves right away – I was wrong. It turned out to be more difficult than I expected, and I fell off my board over and over again.

The experience was equally exhilarating and frustrating, and by the end of the two-hour lesson, I was exhausted, bruised, and starving.

Decided to have an early dinner on my own at the Vietnamese restaurant which I remember seeing as I drove through a small town near the beach. The dining room was filled with locals in damp tracksuits, salty hair, sandy slippers, and the smell of fragrant broth and charred meat. Normally, I’d order pho at a Vietnamese restaurant, but that day I was so battered and wobbly I decided that some meat would be more satisfying, so I ordered lemongrass chicken skewers for my meal.

The chicken paired so well with my sore muscles and became a traditional post-workout dinner in the surf. I went to a few surfing lessons before deciding that the hobby wasn’t right for me. I’m too shy to go to good surf, and too afraid of sharks to really enjoy my time on the water. But I was proud of myself for being brave enough to try something I knew would scare me.

Lemon chicken skewers

It’s best made on a grill, but I made it in the oven.


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons lemongrass chicken skewers lemongrass paste (or 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, mashed and cut into a paste)

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Half a cup of fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Black pepper and salt to taste

Pepper slices for garnish


Cut the chicken into small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine lemongrass, fish sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar salt, and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoning mixture, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Arrange chicken pieces on skewers. Don’t crowd them or pack them too tightly or they won’t cook evenly.

Use any leftover sauce to coat the chicken before cooking.

If you are grilling, cook the skewers over a flame or charcoal until the outside is slightly charred and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

If you are using the oven, grease a baking tray with a little fat and cook under the grill over high heat. You want to flip it halfway through the cooking process so both sides get time under direct heat. This will help the chicken cook evenly and give both sides a slightly crunchy texture. Let it cool for 5 minutes before removing it from the skewers, or you can serve it as is on the skewer.

I made a cold rice noodle salad for the side dish, but sticky rice or noodle soup would be delicious too.

Teresa Dale is a graduate of the School of Culinary and Pastry Arts and a US Navy veteran from Anchorage, Alaska. She lives in Nikki, Alaska, with her husband, 2-year-old son, and two black cats.

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