The Happy Home Cook: Chicken Inasal

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Chicken Inasal (Photo courtesy of Alex Paman)

Chicken Inasal (Photo courtesy of Alex Paman)

Combination Indirect and Direct grilling, Medium-High Heat

Chicken Inasal is the city of Bacolod’s signature grilled chicken dish, and is so highly regarded that a multitude of food franchises has sprung up throughout the country in the past two decades because of its unique taste. The term “Inasal” is a native Ilonggo adaptation of the Spanish word “Asar,” or “to roast.” Although the standard version of this skewered dish uses chicken quarters, it also encompasses wings, breasts, gizzards, livers, and even tails.

Its regional cousin is the slightly sweeter Chicken Inato.

What makes Chicken Inasal unique? It is marinated in coconut vinegar, and then basted with annatto-infused oil. Although modern Inasal recipes employ lemongrass for flavor, I was told by an expert firsthand that this is not traditional, but more of a response and adaptation to the popularity of Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

In restaurants, the accompanying rice is usually mixed with annatto oil or the chicken drippings, then topped with fried garlic bits.


2 large chicken quarters (about 2 ½ lbs total)


1 ½ cups coconut vinegar

½ cup sugar

8 cloves of garlic (sliced crosswise into small pieces)

2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds

¼ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup calamansi juice (or lemon juice)

Baste: annatto-infused oil.

Serves 2-3

Preparation time: about 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 50 minutes


Combine the marinade ingredients together.

Make deep, diagonal cuts on the meat side of the chicken quarters, opposite the skin side, at the thickest part where the drumstick meets the thigh. This section specifically takes the longest to cook, and can remain surprisingly raw even after the cooking time if not opened up.

Place the chicken quarters in a bag or container, then pour the marinade over them, taking care sure to coat the meat thoroughly. Seal the container and marinate the chicken inside the refrigerator overnight, turning the bag over several times to distribute the marinade evenly.

The next day, remove the meat from the marinade, drain off the excess liquid, and place the meat on a platter. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator until ready for grilling. Reserve, strain, and boil a cup of the marinade for later use.

Configure the grill for Indirect Grilling. Place a drip pan beneath the center of the grill grating, in between the coals.

Pre-heat the grill to Medium-High Heat.

Baste the chicken pieces with the annatto oil. Place the chicken pieces (skin-side down) directly over the heat and sear for about 30 seconds, turning once to create crosshatching marks. Flip over and repeat the process.

When done, move the chicken pieces to the center of the grill, over the drip pan, and close the lid. Open the grill’s dome vent all the way. Cook the pieces indirectly for 40 minutes.

After the forty minutes, baste the meat with the boiled marinade, and then the annatto oil. Flip the pieces over, close the lid again, and cook indirectly for another five minutes.

Put the chicken pieces directly over the hot coals and sear both sides a final time. The total cooking time is fifty minutes on the grill.

Let rest, then serve with steamed rice, and commercial Pinakurat or Waykurat Dipping Sauce (available in Filipino markets). For me personally, this dish is best eaten with its boiled marinade as a drizzle or a dipping sauce. The tartness of the vinegar and citrus juice really brings out its flavor.

This is from the author’s newly released book, “Filipino Barbecue,” available in Kindle and softbound versions on

Alex Paman's Filipino Barbeque

Alex Paman's Filipino Barbeque

Alex Paman

Alex Paman

Alex G. Paman is a graphic designer and freelance journalist who lives in Sacramento, California. He is the author of “Filipino Ghost Stories” with Tuttle/Periplus, and “Asian Supernatural, including Hawai’i and the Pacific” with Mutual Publishing.

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