Belle Piccio | May 22, 2013
Chicken inasal is a special charcoal grilled chicken perfected by Bacoleños.
Rows of food stalls are found at the downtown area near Bacolod Plaza at the Reclamation Area. This is the best place to eat at a very affordable price because nothing on the menu is worth more than a hundred pesos (less than US$2) per order.
Nothing is thrown away as all of the chicken parts are used and cooked. Diners can choose from the standard pecho (breast), pa-a (thigh), pak-pak (wings), atay (liver), baticolon (gizzard), up to semi-exotic isol (chicken rear end), tina-e (intestines) and adidas (chicken feet). Live chickens are prepared daily and are cooked upon order (the fresh meat makes the inasal juicy! No frozen fowl here!).
Every stall owner has his or her own unique 'secret recipe' but the basic ingredients (with personal variations) are:
any part of chicken, but the best parts are the thigh and breast
vinegar (cane or coconut variety)
calamansi (local lime)
Mix all the ingredients into a marinate where the chicken parts are soaked at least one hour before cooking. Baste the chicken with annatto (atsuete) oil while grilling. To make the annatto oil, warm enough annatto seeds over moderate heat for around two minutes in lots of cooking oil. Don't let the oil burn.
Set aside and stir until its color acquires an orange hue. Each stall also has its own additional items on the menu but this is chicken city and the mainstay is always the chicken inasal.
Don't expect a classy restaurant setting. There are no air-conditioned rooms and a smoker can light up as he or she pleases. There is no dress code: you can even eat at Manokan Country 'as-you-are', you can come in pajamas and slippers without drawing any stares. Don't be surprised if you'll be sitting besides balikbayans, foreigners in all shades and people from all social levels- an indication that the inasal is THAT good and makes everyone equals.
If you just want to enjoy the delightful grilled chicken in a normal setting, you should come during noon or at lunchtime. In the evening, Manokan Country is usually packed with noisy and smoky groups enjoying happy hour beer with their inasal to cap off a hard day's work. Chicken inasal is best eaten 'kamayan'-style (bare hands) in order to savor all the flavors of the juicy chicken. Utensils are optional but you'll surely miss the 'finger-licking goodness'.
Purists recommend you dip the flavorful meat into a sauce mixture of sinamak (spicy vinegar made from coconut vinegar and chilis), soy sauce, chili and squeezed calamansi. Eat with hot steamed rice (with chicken oil and salt) and wash down with an ice cold drink. This will definitely leave an impression.
So if you ever find yourself in Bacolod City, we don't want you to miss out: do not leave without tasting the original chicken inasal!
Notes: While searching for the ingredients, I stumbled on a recipe for home-made Chicken Inasal from Kulinarya: A Guidebook To Philippine Cuisine.
1 whole chicken, quartered or chicken parts
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
60 ml calamansi juice
2 bulbs lemongrass, finely chopped
1/4-cup (60ml) coconut vinegar
1 tbsp salt
6 cloves garlic, pounded and minced
1/4 cup annatto oil *
skewers or barbecue sticks (optional)
*To make annatto (atsuete) oil, use ratio of 1:2 (annatto seeds to cooking oil). Heat oil in a pan, add annatto seeds and stir until the oil becomes red orange in color; turn off heat and set aside to cool. Strain oil and store in the fridge.
How to make Chicken Inasal:
In a bowl combine garlic, crushed peppercorns, calamansi juice, lemon grass, vinegar and salt. Place the chicken pieces in the marinade for at least an hour, or overnight. Keep in the fridge until ready to cook.
Make the basting sauce: Heat annatto oil in a pan and sauté minced garlic until lightly browned. Chicken Inasal is cooked over low heat preferably over hot coals but I cooked mine on a stovetop grill, it's just more convenient and faster for me to do so.
Grill the chicken skin side first, basting occasionally with annatto oil. The cooking time in the book for the chicken is about 7 minutes for each side.
Serve with dipping sauce and garlic fried rice.
Did you know that the word "asal" came from the Spanish word "asar" which means, "roasted"? When Spaniards colonize the Philippines, they tasted this mouthwatering chicken marinated in native herbs and spices, skewered on bamboo stick, and then basted with annatto and grilled. They assumed it was roasted. The natives adopted the word but couldn't pronounce the letter "R" at the end, thus resulting in "inasal".
How to Get There:
Bacolod City is the provincial capital of Negros Occidental. From Manila, you can fly to Bacolod (Php2500++, round trip, 45 minutes).
From Bacolod-Silay Airport, you can take a shuttle (Php75-100 per head), or hire a cab (Php400 minimum) to go to Bacolod City.
You can also ride a tricycle parked outside the airport (Php10 minimum per head for at least 5 passengers, otherwise if you're riding alone you'll have to pay Php50) going to Silay City proper. From Silay City, you can ride a Silay-Bacolod jeepney (Php13) and get off at Lacson St. and ride a Bata-Libertad or Mandalagan-Libertad jeepney (Php7.50).
You could ask the jeepney driver if they'll pass by Manokan Country, if not get off at Bacolod Public Plaza in front of San Sebastian Cathedral Parish and you could just walk going to the venue by following the signs.
You can also go to Bacolod via ferry (estimated cost of Php2700++ with meal, round trip, 20-22 hours) from Manila. From the port, ride a trisikad (pedicab) or tricycle or if you're in for a walk, you can reach Manokan Country as it is just a few meters away right across Bredco Port.