Coca-Cola Chicken a.k.a. ho lok kai

coke chicken

I remember Coke Chicken from the early 90’s when my sister watched her TVB drama series. The characters would go to a tai pai tong (an informal hawker stall, totally different from a cha chang teng) and ask for it. It was the first time I’ve heard of chicken being cooked with Coca-Cola and wondered if it actually *tastes like Coke*.

I have not been to Hong Kong at that point so I was intrigued by the sudden explosion in the popularity of Coke Chicken since then. It’s not so popular now (can’t find it in HK) but it’s a very fast and delicious way to make chicken.

ho lok kai

This is my better half’s recipe, it’s what we cooked for dinner last night:

  • 1 can Coca-Cola
  • 2 tablespoons cooking caramel (dark soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 300 grams chicken wings and drumsticks

coke chicken recipe

I wanted the drumsticks but Coke Chicken usually refers to wings, or so the TVB series would lead me to believe.

cooking with coke

There have been claims that this does not work with Diet Coke due to the (loads) of sugar required to *caramelize* the chicken. I’ve also heard that the addition of Coca-Cola is for the bicarbonate of soda, which is an *alkaline solution* that can actually change the fibers in chicken meat. The other camp says that Coke is acidic so it’s ideal as a *marinating agent* to tenderize protein.

coke chicken reduction

I don’t know which of the above it true, or none at all. I have found no research to quantify it, just the same words passed on without references. However, this dish is a quick and delicious meal. You just heat up the Coke while the marinated chicken is fried till golden brown. The chicken is then put into the Coca-Cola until it reduces to a thick sauce.

coca cola chicken

I like the idea of it though and I’ll try it with other beverages (Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Fanta Grape, different lagers and ales etc) and see how it goes! :)

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28 thoughts on “Coca-Cola Chicken a.k.a. ho lok kai”

  1. HB, I had coca cola chicken when I went camping in Yosemite Park. We forgot some seasoning but got lot colas with us. Over an open fire basting it with cola and salt it true out super good.

  2. Coca-Cola chicken is a weeknight staple for my partner and I (plus our siblings sometimes)…but I didn’t get it from TVB series! It’s from the cookbook of one of the Masterchef Australia contestants Billy Law (and he’s Malaysian) – http://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/billy-laws-coca-cola-chicken.html and I think his recipe really works. We all love it. Like you, I don’t know the mechanics of the Coke (tenderizing or alkaline or whatever) but it just goes with the dish.

    I often use chicken thigh fillet cut into chunky pieces as none of us likes chicken on the bone (I can hear you tsk-tsk-ing disapprovingly, HB). Surprising we all like this dish as all of us hates Coke as a drink! :P

    • Cool! I finished Season 5 and am watching Season 3 now! :)

      Haha! To each his (or her) own. I know a lot of people who doesn’t like chicken on the bone.

      Most Caucasian recipes doesn’t call for chicken on the bone too (seems to be a big no-no) but I like it!

    • I’m looking forward to doing the Fanta Grape version! :)

      I wonder if the coloring is strong enough to make the entire dish purple!

      The same to you Yvonne!

  3. I like how the Cola caramelized the chicken,dear. Next time, should add more ‘si yau’ to make it slightly saltier. Yumm. Hope you enjoy it, dear. Hugs

    • Yeah, that would make it better but need to drink a lot of water! :)

      I did enjoy it dear, you’re a great cook and I’m lucky to have you. *hugs*

    • Haha! It’s the first time I’ve ever cooked it! :)

      Although it was Ling who did most of the cooking, I was intrigued by the possibilities of using other canned drinks!

  4. I like Coke Chicken. As the recipe the pretty simple and it tasted good too.
    Thanks for giving me idea on what to cook next week! Hahaha….almost forgotten about this dish :-p

    • Yup, it’s simple and it’s fast to cook! :)

      We did this after work on a Friday night and it took just a couple of minutes to cook (would have taken even less if I didn’t insist on waiting for the Coke to reduce).

      Have a great week ahead Mel!

    • Haha! No, we didn’t, that would be a bit too much! :)

      We just used the can of Coke for cooking.

      I wanted it to fully reduce too so I insisted that we wait to see how that goes. Heh!

  5. I’ve never had this before! Should try it some day.

    It makes sense that you can’t do it with Diet Coke. Artificial sweeteners are not supposed to be heated beyond a certain degree like sugar.

    • It’s really good! :)

      Hey, I didn’t know that. Learn something new everyday, thanks for letting me know Mela!

      I wonder how this works then since most sodas don’t use sugar per se anymore but rather HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) so the sugar won’t react that much.

      It just suddenly came to me coz of the controversial use of HFCS.

  6. Acidity does help with tenderizing meat. Koreans add Korean pear juice (배) into bulgogi marinade. I use kiwi whenever I make beef stew and sometimes pear too :)

    • Oh yeah, I forgot about that! :)

      I’ve been to Korea twice and during the second trip went on a food tour (company trip itinerary). It’s interesting how they make kimchi too.

      Beef stew with pear and kiwi fruit. Now that I gotta try, or with some other high acidity citrus fruit. Thanks for the tip Diana!

  7. Always wanted to try but never got down to it. A friend cooked some for me once when I was in KL…but I had it cold in the hotel room so I can’t say that I liked it a lot.

    • Yeah, this is a dish that has to be eaten hot to be enjoyed! :)

      We tried it over the weekend again – used 2+ bottles of beer to cook “beer chicken”. It turned out to be quite tasty too – not sweet at all (unlike Coke chicken) but slightly bitter from the hops in the beer. It’s interesting how beverages changes the meat!

    • Haha! That’ll be a perfect use for your Coke! :)

      We also cooked using beer and it didn’t taste sweet at all but slightly bitter from the malt and hops in the beer. It’s interesting how you can use different beverages to come out with different dishes.

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