When Speedy asked me once if I knew how to make inasal na manok, I said yes without a second thought. In fact, I was rather surprised because the implication was that inasal na manok is something complicated or that the recipe is a tightly guarded secret. Literally, inasal na manok means roasted chicken, inasal being derived from the Spanish word asar which means “to roast.”
In contemporary Filipino cooking, however, inasal na manok has become synonymous with grilled chicken as it has become popular in Bacolod City, capital of Negros Occidental. While there is no single and definitive recipe for inasal na manok, 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 chilis — is sour.
This is my version of inasal na manok.
- 1 whole chicken, about 1.2 kg., cut in halves or quarters
For the marinade:
1/4 c. of white vinegar (I used Silver Swan)
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 pc. of turmeric (yellow ginger), peeled
6 stalks of lemongrass (light colored portions of the stalks only)
2 tbsps. of rock salt
1/2 tsp. of annatto powder
A LOT of freshly ground black pepper
- Peel off the fibrous outer layers of the lemongrass (see details). Lightly pound the remaining portions.
With a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt and lemongrass to a paste. Mix with the ground black pepper and annatto powder. Rub the mixture all over the chicken.
Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a container. Pour in the vinegar. Cover the container and allow the chicken to marinate for at least two hours. After an hour, flip them over to ensure even absorption of the flavors. Unless you use more vinegar than is actually needed, it isn’t true that the chicken will turn very sour if allowed to marinate for several hours. I marinated my chicken halves for four hours and they were fantastic.
The best way to grill the chicken is to make sure that the pieces are as flat as possible so that every part is uniformly heated. I recommend a grill basket like the one you see above. Once closed, the basket forces the chicken to spread out so that nothing is too near or too far from the heat.
Grill the chicken over live coals, at least six inches from the heat, for about 15 minutes per side. You can use the leftover marinade for basting. I find it unnecessary since the chicken has had enough time to absorb all the flavors. I don’t recommend basting with anything oil-based either (like margarine or cooking oil in which annatto seeds have been allowed to render their color) because oil will just hasten the burning of the skin. I like my grilled chicken cooked through and lightly charred with all the smoky goodness but not burned.
To test if the chicken is done, pierce the thickest portion of the meat (the thigh is a good place) and if the juices run clear, it’s time to bring the chicken to the dining table.
Serve your chicken inasal with a dipping sauce made with vinegar, crushed garlic, sliced ginger, chopped shallots and chilis. A salad and sweet ripe mangoes will should complete your meal.
Cooking time (duration): 40 minutes excluding marinating time
Number of servings (yield): 4
Meal type: lunch / supper
*Updated from a recipe originally published on May 4, 2010.