A lovely summery dish, chili chicken with fresh pineapple (pininyahang manok for you Filipino readers) has bold and vibrant flavors and colors. The browned chicken is braised in a mixture of coconut milk the natural juices that the pineapple expels during cooking.
This is an updated recipe. There used to be four recipes for pininyahang manok in the archive, none of which holds a candle to this one. What makes this recipe better? Five reasons.
1. As with the previous recipes, I used a whole chicken minus the breast (the breast was cooked as a separate dish). I did not debone the chicken. Fillets just won’t work in this recipe. And here’s the real modification—include the back and neck of the chicken because the bones in them will make the sauce so tasty. You want the as much flavor from the bones and the long and slow cooking guarantees to strip off those flavors and meld them with all the other ingredients.
2. Fresh pineapple is a must. Canned pineapple chunks might retain their shape better but there’s nothing like the subtle tang that you get from fresh pineapple. And the juice—oh, the juice!—that gets slowly squeezed from the fibers of the fruit… Don’t think that canned is a good substitute.
3. Use just a little coconut milk. This is a braised dish, not a soup. The coconut milk is just supposed to add a layer of flavor and natural sweetness. It isn’t meant to be a drinkable sauce.
4. Use both chilies and ginger. Both add heat to the dish but they are imbued with different flavors and aromas.
5. Finally… don’t hurry up the cooking. Use the lowest heat possible and just enough liquid in which to cook the chicken. That’s the best way to create concentrated flavors.
Chili Chicken With Fresh Pineapple (Pininyahang Manok)
- 1 chicken about 1.5 kilograms
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 cup tapioca starch or substitute corn starch
- cooking oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 one-inch knob ginger grated
- 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 finger chilies diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 2 to 3 cups fresh pineapple chunks
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- sliced scallions to garnish
Chop the chicken into serving size portions. Reserve the breast for another dish.
Rub the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Toss in starch.
In a wide shallow pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of two inches.
Lightly fry the starched chicken, in batches if necessary, just until lightly browned and the starch has formed a light crisp crust on the surface.
Pour off the oil leaving only about a tablespoonful. Reheat.
Saute the garlic, ginger, shallots and chilies. Stir in the pineapple chunks and bell pepper.
Pour in the coconut milk and about a tablespoonful of fish sauce. Stir.
Arrange the chicken in the pan in a single layer.
Set the heat to low. Cover the pan. Let the chicken cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Avoid uncovering the pan too often to minimize loss of moisture. You may check every 15 to 20 minutes to see how the chicken is doing. Taste the sauce as well and add more fish sauce if needed. If your chicken is exceptionally tough and it needs to cook a little longer, you may need to add half a cup or so of chicken broth to prevent the sauce from drying up. Note that the coconut milk will curdle during cooking and the sauce won't be white or off-white. That's how it should be.
When the chicken is done, give the sauce one last taste. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Scoop out the contents of the pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the chicken, pineapple and vegetables. Sprinkle with sliced scallions before serving.