Posted in Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia, The Pinoy Food Route

In Which the Barbecued Chicken of the South is Done Well – Very Well…

Who can say no to barbecued chicken?
Who can say no to barbecued chicken?

Inasal na manok – colloquially known as chicken inasal – is a specialty from the Central Philippines, particularly from the province of Negros Occidental where it is the signature dish of Bacolod City, though it is also a popular viand in neighboring Iloilo.  It is, in essence, another barbecued chicken dish: bone-in chicken segments threaded onto bamboo skewers and grilled till charred on the outside, tender and juicy within.

However, unlike the sweeter marinade preferred in Luzon or the one from Mindanao which is more like the Malaysian satay with its nutty taste, the chicken is steeped in a mixture of native lime (kalamansi), lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and the potently chili-infused sinamak vinegar prior to grilling over coals.  During the grilling process, the chicken is given another layer of flavor as it is basted with a mixture of melted salted margarine mixed with ground black pepper and a generous splash of annato {achuete} oil which gives the skin a distinctive orange hue and a peppery, slightly floral savor that is further amped up by the smoky taste imparted by the charcoal.

When I was a kid, the only place you could get inasal was at the Bacolod Chicken House in Paranaque.  Nowadays, though, thanks to Mang Inasalyou could get a decent barbecue meal in just about every part of the country.

Careful about this one: it's VERY hot!
Careful about this one: it’s VERY hot!

Touting itself as the Philippines’ first fast-food barbecue joint, Mang Inasal’s main stock-in-trade is grilled chicken: large, hefty servings of it and you can get unlimited rice refills – and all that for less that P 120.00 (US$ 2.71).

Mang Inasal gives diners three choices when it comes to its chicken meals: pecho (a butterflied wing and breast), paa (butterflied thigh and leg quarter), and the spicy paa which features a thigh-and-leg quarter soaked with plenty of fiery siling labuyo (nam prik; bird’s-eye chili) to give it some extra heat.  It also offers things like pork barbecue, sisig, and daing na bangus (salt-cured milkfish), but the chicken is the star of the show here.

Considering that it’s fast-food chicken, the segments of fowl you get on your plate are surprisingly tender and are quite flavorful.  Even the breasts which tend to be dry and stringy at most fast-food dives are moist, juicy, and totally infused with flavor.  The dark meat is no slouch, either, and you can taste the herbs used to marinate the chicken in every bite.  Just be very careful with the spicy paa, though; it is decidedly incendiary, knocks down a lot of rice, and you’ll be lurching for your drink almost as soon as the first bite goes into your mouth.  It makes for good pain, though.  🙂

Every chicken meal comes with a cup of rice, a bowl of deliciously sour sinigang broth, and a small sauce with a split kalamansi and, should you opt for it, a whole siling labuyo.  There are three bottles at every table: sinamak vinegar, soy sauce, and buttery achuete oil.  The vinegar and soy are great for seasoning the fowl; the oil is something to sprinkle into your rice to make your own spin on the popular orange-hued Java rice.  Waitstaff will go around with a bucket of hot rice with which to refill diners’ plates should they choose to have more.  It’s definitely the place for people with immoderate appetites and modest means.  😀

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Author:

Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended earlier this year. These days, she works for a corporate governance advocacy in Makati. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel.

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