20140823-190528-68728055.jpgNot sure why people think that only natives can do justice to a particular cuisine. Is it national or cultural pride? Stubbornness? I admit to a preference to seeing Japanese natives in a Japanese restaurant and feel like shying away from such if populated and run by, say, Chinese, but this is crazy in this hodge podge, ethnically homogenized world we live in.

So here I was with chicken in hand, marinade at the ready, and three hungry Filipino savvy foodies awaiting my efforts. How would white guy does Filipino fly with these three? A couple of things already going against me–I don’t consider myself adept at grilling, much less barbecue though I have plans to address that skill set in the months to come. As it stands, I have my stovetop plancha for most of my bigger grill tasks and other than getting my wife in a tizzy due to the smoke which our overhead oven fan absolutely fails to contain, cooking went apace.

When my wife and I visited the Philippines and the area of Negros a couple of years ago, we visited Manokan Country, a street of storefronts all of which specialized in Manokan Inasal (loosely translated as ‘chicken barbecue’). Over in that neck of the jungle, all these little restaurants have their own secret recipes for their marinades and cooking techniques, and all have their special adherents and fans. Regardless, often the chickens being used can be pretty lean as getting chickens ‘fatted up’ means buying more grain, letting them grow a bit bigger and get a bit more mature, and all that affects the bottom line for both the restaurants and the chicken farmers.

So the chicken is pretty lean. But then, they tend to utilize the entire chicken from neck to foot so there is little waste. Often the meat is skewered, even if larger legs or breasts, and sticks of gizzards, hearts, intestines, you name it.

Soooo….how could this neophyte white boy cook hope to compare to the dream and memory of Bacolod’s finest?

1) trust in my basic skills at the grill
2) rely on their generous opinions
3) get lucky?

I started off with a marinade I found online, purportedly from an established Bacolod chicken barbecue place. The unique thing about Bacolod barbecue is that there is no soy sauce in the marinade, which is great for those concerned about the vast amounts of salt often found in typical Filipino cuisine. Utilizing this recipe as a good base, I used coconut vinegar as well as cane sugar vinegar and added diced onions as well. I marinated it for about two hours or so, occasionally flipping over the meat to make sure it was marinated equally too and bottom.

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After our guests arrived (last minute, too) and were plied with Pisco Sours…

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…I started the plancha up on medium heat and began to cook the chicken, reserving some of the marinade juices to add to the basting sauce of melted butter and achuete which turned it a luscious reddish color (in the future I may substitute oil for some of the butter for health reasons–ha!) and started grilling.

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(Photo courtesy Astrid Barros)

After a few minutes the chicken was starting to look good.

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Wifey noted that the meat near the bone was still pinkish (though overall the meat according to my thermometer had indicated that it had reached the correct temperature for chicken) and the skin was suitably charred to some people’s taste…and even my wife found that the extra ‘blackening’ wasn’t such a bad thing (seeing my wife and Bruno put forth their opinions on what is ‘properly cooked’ was very interesting).

More ‘before and after’ shots courtesy of Astrid Barros below!

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Now, Bacolod barbecue isn’t complete without sides, and most often it is garlic rice cooked in a bit of Achuete oil with minced garlic, natch.

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Not to mention sasawan in which guests are encouraged to mix and match their own ingredients (sasawan: dipping sauce). I made two simple ones, both a mix of vinegar and soy sauce, with one spicier using pierced Thai ‘birdshit’ peppers.

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With a final side of steamed broccoli seasoned with Japanese nori flakes and seaweed, dinner was complete…along with the beer.

Final tally was resounding success! It passed muster, yet the garlic rice seemed like the biggest hit of all. While the chicken was certainly juicy and flavorful, I think it could have used a bit more seasoning…mainly, a bit more salt! But a thankful ‘pass’ from our collected Filipino food- lovers.

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