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Happy days and Homemade Chicken Inasal

I really have to learn how to balance my travel diaries to encompass more documentations of food. Whenever I go exploring in a new place, I seem to get so excited over the sights that I kind of forget to chronicle the food. It was no different for my Bacolod trip. You can in fact observe from both of my previous entries that I don’t have much in the way of food there.

However I would call it a major mortal sin if one went to Bacolod without so much as a taste of its signature dish, the Bacolod Chicken Inasal. We had one inasal meal at the Chicken House while we were touring around Bacolod, and it was enough to spark my desire to make inasal here at home.

Just a little trivia: I like chicken a lot. I love fish even more but chicken is definitely number two on my list so I really enjoy trying out all sorts of chicken dishes like this one. Any new way to cook chicken is always a welcome addition to my repertoire.

Now this recipe is a super special one for me because for the first time in the history of The Tummy Train my mom actually helped me cook a dish! So actively involved was she in fact that even as I was getting ready to take photographs of the pretty piece of chicken she chose for me, she hurriedly ran over to give me a stalk of basil to add colour to the plate. (Good job, Mom!) This might come as a shock to some, but none of my family members actually voluntarily spend time with me in the kitchen, so imagine my surprise when my mother actually beat me to the grill! I guess she was as excited to test out this recipe as I was, raring to find out if this was going to be another keeper. Well whatever her reasons she made me really happy. 🙂

Oh, and the cherry on top? This Chicken Inasal is pretty darn good!

If there’s one thing I’m really grateful for with the introduction of blogging into my life, it’s that I am constantly motivated to try new things in the kitchen. Any other circumstance, I would’ve wondered briefly how a dish was made and a little later just forget about it. It’s always easier to tell yourself to buy something instead of to make it. If I didn’t have this space to encourage me to explore my curiosity about food, I wouldn’t have developed the habit of trying to duplicate dishes I like right in my own kitchen. I wouldn’t have discovered how easy it was to make Chicken Inasal at home.

And to think I used to have this strange notion that it involved some complex procedure to make!

The Chicken Inasal is a grilled dish originating from the Visayas region of the Philippines, but since the Mang Inasal fastfood chain opened in many parts of the country the chicken inasal has become rather mainstream. It became sort of a phenomenon really, because Filipinos would line up in throngs back when it was newly introduced. I think that says a lot about the Filipino’s love for barbecued chicken. Although the authenticity of the fastfood version is arguable, they still are partly responsible for exposing chicken inasal to the masses.

Now back to the recipe, if you’re wondering about the reddish/orange hue of the chicken, it’s because for the marinade the inasal version uses a little something called atsuete seeds, known to the rest of the world as annatto seeds. These babies are a popular ingredient in Filipino cooking, responsible for many yummy local dishes that are richly orange in colour.

To create the marinade you first have to make some atsuete oil, which is basically regular flavourless oil infused with atsuete seeds, bay leaf, and some garlic. You bring that mix to a boil and then let it sit for a few hours before using. You will see your oil turn into this beautiful red-orange concoction that smells simply amazing.

So that’s step one of the recipe out of the way. Next you will only need to marinade your chicken thighs- preferably overnight- with a mixture that combines the atsuete oil, sugar, calamansi (or lime if you don’t have calamansi), ginger, and a full stalk of lemongrass. I’m sure you can already imagine the beautiful flavours that will be coming into play for this. To allow the marinade to shine through, this particular grilled chicken is not paired with ketchup or any flavourful sauce but with vinegar, just to add a sour tang to the already wonderful roll call of flavours. 

The book I’ve adapted this from says the chicken can be roasted in the oven, but honestly, inasal is inasal because it is charcoal grilled, so if you’re going to make this recipe might as well go all the way. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Straight from the grill and onto the plate piping hot, place a side of garlic rice plus a bit of vinegar with some salt, garlic, and chilli in it and you have yourself a truly chicken inasal experience.

Chicken Inasal

One of the Philippines' best-loved grilled chicken recipes, featuring a marinade that is richly coloured and flavoured. This recipe is best charcoal-grilled to attain that delicious smoky flavour, but it can also be roasted in the oven.
Servings 6


For the atsuete oil (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/8 cup atsuete seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 ancho chilli, crushed, stemmed, and seeded (adjust according to preference)

For the chicken

  • 1/4 cup atsuete oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed calamansi or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine, cane, or cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3-1/2 pound chicken, quartered or cut into pieces (skewered if desired)*


To make the atsuete oil

  • 1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil with the other ingredients. When it begins to bubble, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 hours.
  • 2. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

To prepare the chicken

  • 3. In a large nonreactive bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Cut slightly deep slits on top of the chicken pieces then add to the bowl, making sure every part of the chicken is covered by the orange marinade.
  • 4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  • 5. Chicken inasal is best charcoal grilled. Remember to brush the chicken with the remaining marinade in the bowl as you flip and grill it to heighten the flavour. Check to make sure the chicken is cooked to the bone before removing from the grill.
  • 6. If roasting, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Transfer the chicken to a foil-lined baking sheet, reserving the marinade, then roast the chicken, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade, until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.
  • 7. Serve with garlic rice and chilli-infused vinegar.


* I recommend using chicken thighs for this recipe, but make sure you cut them into half or into smaller pieces to help the chicken cook through evenly. You can also place the chicken in wooden skewers to make it easier to flip them on the grill.
Adapted from <i>Memories of Philippines Kitchens</i> by Amy Besa & Romy Dorotan
It’s pretty ridiculous how my own photos are making my mouth water right now.

I need a piece of this.


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