Literally, inasal means roasted, a derivative from the Spanish word asar which means “to roast.”
In contemporary Filipino cooking, however, chicken inasal has become synonymous with the grilled chicken of Bacolod City and Iloilo City in Western Visayas.
While there is no single and definitive recipe for chicken inasal, what seems to set it apart from other grilled chicken dishes is the lack of anything sweet in the marinade. Even the dipping sauce — a mixture of vinegar, shallots, garlic, ginger and chilies — is sour.
And that sourness can be a bit too much. So, at home, we serve our chicken inasal with a simple side salad of tomatoes, cucumber, shallots and ripe mangoes. The sweetness of the mango cuts the acidity and gives the meal more rounded flavors.
The recipe below includes one for our home-brewed dipping sauce.
- 1 kilogram chicken (we used four chicken leg quarters) wiped dry with a kitchen towel
- 6 stalks lemongrass (light colored portions of the stalks only)
- 1 whole garlic peeled
- 2 thumb-sized knobs ginger peeled and cut into thin slices
- 1 half-inch knob turmeric peeled
- 2 tablespoons rock salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon annatto powder
- ¼ cup white vinegar (cane vinegar was used here)
- ½ cup palm oil
- 3 tablespoons annatto seeds dried
- 4 cloves garlic lightly pounded
Marinate the chicken
- Peel off the fibrous outer layers of the lemongrass. Lightly pound the remaining portions.
- With a mortar and pestle or a food processor, except the vinegar, grind all the ingredients for the marinade.
- Rub the chicken with the marinade.
- Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a container.
- Drizzle in the vinegar.
- Cover the container and allow the chicken to marinate for at least two hours. After two hours, flip them over to ensure even absorption of the flavors.
Make the basting oil
- In a small sauce pan set over very low heat, pour in the palm oil and add the annatto seeds and garlic.
- Heat until the annatto seeds have rendered color.
- Turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool.
- Strain the oil (see notes after the recipe).
- While waiting for the oil to cool, make the salad and dipping sauce
Make the salad
- In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, mangoes, shallots and salt.
- Cover the bowl and chill the salad in the fridge.
Make the dipping sauce
- Stir together all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preferred balance.
Grill the chicken
- Grill the chicken (over glowing charcoal is traditional), turning them over occasionally and brushing them with the basting oil every few minutes.
- To test for doneness, pierce the thickest part of the meat with a skewer. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done.
Serve your chicken inasal
- Transfer your chicken inasal to a serving platter or divide among individual bowls.
- Serve with rice (see notes after ther recipe), the side salad and dipping sauce on the side.
Optionally, you may drizzle a little basting oil over the rice.