Local Flavors

Cordillera region's local flavor: Pinikpikan


Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | May 27, 2013

Ready for some extreme eating?

Pinikpikan is a popular native dish from the highlands of the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines. If you want to try it make sure you don't get to see how its prepared.

An Igorot delicacy, pinikpikan involves a live chicken being beaten with a stick prior to cooking. The coagulated blood, burned feathers and skin actually provide the flavor of the dish.

The process of light beating or "pikpik" is where pinikpikan derives its name. The ritual preparation by Cordillera tribes is done to determine appropriate courses of action and their fate. The chicken is 'battered' to keep the blood inside the chicken. If its beaten properly the chicken will not be bloody when it is sliced. None of the bones should be broken during the beating or slicing.

The preparation is said to violate the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 1998 but people who cook pinikpikan claim they're actually doing the chickens a favor since the animals are said to be too numb to feel any pain when it is time to dispatch them.

Back in the day, tribesmen used the smallish native chicken, considered to be tastier with its darker meat. Now larger varieties such as the broiler or cobbs are acceptable as it is more common and offers a larger serving.

Using a simple, wooden stick, the cook lightly beats the chicken underneath both wings and on the neck until these areas turn bluish, indicating the blood has risen just underneath the skin. Using the same stick, the cook delivers a well placed blow to the back of the bird's head. This has to be done precisely as to give the bird and the cook a favor - the bird should be close to unconscious so it won't attack its designated executioner. If done properly there's hardly any bleeding due to the coagulated blood.

The pinions or wings are removed and the whole bird is thrown into an open fire so as to burn all the feathers. making sure the boots are properly singed so they can be hand separated from the skin.

The bird is then washed and cleaned to remove the soot and dirt, the process also removes the beak, crown and claws. The innards are cleaned and removed with the intestines tied around gizzard. The ritual cutting involves the removal of the head. The skin is sliced in sections that would allow the careful dislocation of the thighs without breaking the bones.

The rib cage is left intact with the internal organs which includes the heart, liver and lungs. A tribal priest then 'reads' the bile and liver which determines the course of action the tribe will take on matters such as harvesting crops or waging warfare.

The limbs are separated from the body and all the edible parts, head and innards included, are thrown into a pot of water flavored with Etag (cured meat) and then boiled. The singed feathers are also used to give the soup a smoked flavor.

The tribal chief is served what is considered the best part, the center portion containing the ribs and innards. Purists contend that if pinikpikan is served with vegetables or flavorings such as ginger is added, then it merely becomes a version of Tinolang Manok.

Widely available in the Cordilleras, pinikpikan has versions which use ingredients such as ginger, onions, pechay or chayote. But whatever spice or garnish is added, it's still the chicken that has the last say.

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