Chargrilled annatto and lemongrass chicken

Chargrilled annatto and lemongrass chicken

Chicken inasal

7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

Pecho or pa-a, maam?’ Chargrilled chicken inasal is offered in two generous cuts — marylands (thigh and drumstick) or supremes (breast and wing) — splayed on a thick bamboo rod for support. My first experience of eating inasal was in Bacolod, where the specialty originated; in recent years, the regional hit has spread across the country. ‘Pa-a,’ I tell the waiter. ‘And a bottle of sinamak, please.’ It’s not real inasal without the fiery vinegar to dip it in.

This adapted recipe was shared with me one afternoon in Cebu by renowned food blogger ‘Market Manila’. On his site, fragrant, succulent inasal is the single most popular recipe with over 100,000 page views. Here are a few insider tips: slit the meat along the thickest parts for even cooking and pile leftover marinade aromatics on the chicken to infuse and char as it is cooking.


Quantity Ingredient
1.4kg whole chicken
2 red asian shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 lemongrass stems, thinly sliced, white part only
8 kalamans, juiced
or 1 lemon and 1 lime
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
60ml coconut or apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt flakes
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
250ml Annatto oil, made with butter
Ilocos-style spiced vinegar
steamed rice, to serve


  1. To joint a chicken into marylands (drumstick and thigh; pecho) and supremes (breast with wing; pa-a), place chicken, breast side up, on a work surface. Stretch a leg away from the body, then cut through the skin between the thigh joint and the body, keeping the knife as close as possible to the body.
  2. Repeat on the other side to have 2 marylands. Make a cut through the skin and flesh running along either side of the cartilaginous ridge of the breast bone. Cut the breast meat back from the bottom towards the wing joint, keeping the knife as close as possible to the carcass. Cut through the joint where the wing is attached to have a breast with wing attached, then trim the wing end. Repeat with the other breast and wing. You will have 4 pieces.
  3. Using a sharp knife, score the chicken on the underside through the thickest parts of the thigh (alongside the bone) and breast, then open out to expose the extra flesh.
  4. Place the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, kalamansi juice, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper into a large non-reactive dish and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the chicken and, using your hands, massage the marinade into the chicken (get into all the nooks and crannies!). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning and re-massaging halfway to ensure even coverage.
  5. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Preheat a charcoal or regular barbecue to low– medium. Drizzle 125 ml of the annatto oil over the chicken and massage well; the mixture will be slightly orange. Season with extra salt flakes, then cook the chicken, skin side down first, for 12 minutes on each side, or until golden, crisp and slightly charred — baste the chicken occasionally with the remaining marinade and reserved annatto oil, allowing the occasional flames to lick the meat — the chicken is cooked when the thickest part is pierced with a skewer and the juices run clear. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Season the chicken inasal, to taste, and serve with sinamak dipping sauce, any remaining annatto oil and some steamed rice.
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