It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that if you’re a fan of Pepper.ph, you’re also probably guilty of drowning your rice in this glorious condiment (or sauce? A dressing, maybe?). While I may not be able to remember the first time I tried chicken oil, a visit to any inasal joint is now never complete without it.
In honor of this wonderful liquid, let’s take a look at how it’s made and how best to enjoy chicken oil with our meals.
Chicken inasal is cooked very differently from your usual chicken barbecue. For one, it’s basted using oil that’s been steeped in achuete and garlic, giving it its distinct color and aroma. It’s this same oil that we see together with the bottles of soy sauce and vinegar on the tables of an inasal restaurant.
Though it’s difficult to trace the origins of chicken oil, it isn’t that far-fetched to think that cooks figured out that they could use of all that fat and skin that they’d take off the meat. I’d like to imagine that those guys trimming the fat just looked at each other one day and said “You know what? Let’s not throw this stuff away, and let’s just cook it!”, with the end results being chicken skin they could snack on all day, and our beloved rendered chicken oil.
Of course, it wouldn’t be too long before those same guys would again look at each other and go “Why are we still buying oil when we can use this stuff instead?” So the rest, is as they say, history, thanks to these enterprising fellows.
How it’s made
If you’d like to have a batch always handy around the house, here are the basic steps to making chicken oil.
Rendering Chicken Fat
Trim excess fat off your chicken. Or, you can stock up on chicken skin instead. (The palengke or talipapa should have this.) Just heat up the skin over low heat to draw out the fat. When the skin is crispy and golden, remove from heat and drain the oil.
Add Achuete and Garlic
Add a tablespoon or so of achuete seeds, and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic to the warm oil. You can also add a bit of salt if you want.
Bottle it up, and store it in the fridge if you aren’t consuming this right away. It’s best consumed within 3 to 5 days. Removing the solids may help in extending its lifespan, but you’ll sacrifice the taste if you keep it for more than a week.
How to Enjoy It
There is nothing like pouring the oil over a cup of steaming white rice. Let that warmth wake up all the aromatics from the garlic and atchuete, and take a whiff as the steam rises. Enjoy each bite of your inasal with a spoonful of this heavenly mixture.
While I confess to adding soy sauce to my chicken oil and rice, I’ve been told that it’s actually better with plain salt instead. This gives a more balanced flavor to let the natural essence of the garlic and atchuete really come through.
Just leave your chicken oil on your rice however, and don’t pour it over the inasal. The meat’s already been basted with the stuff, and you’re bound to overload your palate with flavor if you add more oil. Always go for freshly made chicken oil if you can. Check by smelling the oil. If it’s still pungent with garlic and atchuete, then you’re good to go.
Special thanks to Chef Jayps Anglo of Sarsa Kitchen+Bar for providing the information found here.