I recently joined the Kulinarya Cooking Club, which consists of a group of bloggers who share a love of Filipino cuisine. What started in Sydney, Australia grew into a truly international bloggerhood, and I’m thrilled to be part of it. A monthly theme is chosen, and for June, it was (appropriately so) barbecue.
When I think of Filipino barbecue, my mind first turns to our wonderful street food classic: barbecued pork in skewers. It’s the kind of food you can’t get enough of, no matter how sticky everything gets: your fingers, lips, mouth, cheeks … then you run out of clean napkins and try to sneakily wipe your grubby hands on your jeans. (Or, if you’re subtle enough, on the jeans of the person standing next to you.)
Unfortunately, Tom doesn’t eat pork. So I decided on another Filipino classic on the grill: chicken barbecue. And if you’re Filipino, you know the words “chicken barbecue” never fail to bring to mind the landmark restaurant Aristocrat, where an order of their popular chicken barbecue comes with a serving of Java rice and achara. I wasn’t ambitious enough to attempt Java rice because it’s been years since I last had it, but I did make achara (pickled green papaya) to go with my chicken.
Filipino barbecue is often marinated in a mixture that includes 7-Up or Sprite, likely for its tenderizing effect. But that was pretty much all I knew. So I started out by going online and looking at all the different recipes for Aristocrat-style chicken barbecue. I bookmarked a few, noticed the common elements in many of them, then sat down to draft my plan of attack. Then it dawned on me. Why search the internet when I can get the family recipe directly from the source?
So I called my mom, who rattled off the recipe over the phone. I had to scribble furiously, because she was in a rush: she was home watching the NBA finals and didn’t want to miss any of the action. (Yes, that’s my mom.) I noticed her recipe didn’t include catsup (banana catsup or regular tomato catsup), which was often mentioned in online recipes as either part of the marinade or a component of the basting mixture. My mom was adamant: the family recipe for chicken barbecue contains absolutely no catsup. For good measure, she sent a message to our family cooks back home to verify the recipe she gave me.
This chicken is incredibly moist and flavorful, and the reduced marinade has just the right balance of sweet and savory, having cooked off the tartness of the vinegar. Paired with achara and plain jasmine rice, it is a combination that instantly recalls our weekly family reunions from long ago, when all that we kids had to worry about was how much we could eat before it became impossible to go right back outside and play hide-and-seek in the yard. And I’m so glad I remembered to get the family recipe instead of relying on internet versions, because for me, this is the taste that brings me back home.
Filipino Chicken Barbecue (Inihaw na Manok)
If you have concerns about boiling the used marinade, double the measurements for the marinade and set half aside for the basting mixture.
1 1/2 cups cane vinegar, or 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Take the chicken out and transfer the pieces to a large plate. While waiting for the chicken to come to room temperature, pour the marinade into a small sauce pan (or discard the marinade and pour the additional reserved marinade into a sauce pan) and boil over medium to high heat until the marinade is reduced to a sticky syrup.
Heat your grill to 350 degrees or medium heat. Grill chicken pieces, bone side down, for about 8 minutes, then reduce the grill temperature to 275 degrees. Continue grilling bone side down for about 20 minutes, basting once. Flip the pieces over and grill for another 20 minutes, basting occasionally. Continue grilling, flipping, and basting until chicken is fully cooked. Check for doneness by piercing the joint to ensure juices run clear, or until chicken reaches 163F internal temperature.
Take chicken off the grill, tent with foil, and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Filipino chicken barbecue. Perfect for summer cookouts and for fueling up before you spend hours chasing your cousins all over the yard. The only caveat is that one serving of this can cause an acute attack of homesickness.
P.S. Stop back in tomorrow, when I share our family recipe for achara. It’s incredibly easy to make, and the perfect condiment for all kinds of grilled meat.