Chicken is a staple in the Filipino household. It’s versatile, affordable, and accessible to everyone. When people hear Filipino chicken recipes, they think of adobo, tinola, or arroz caldo. But there are more options out there. Many regional recipes are just waiting for their time in the spotlight.
Read on for a quick tour across the islands and discover local chicken variations that deserve your full attention.
Chicken Pipian of Ilocos Sur
The journey begins up north in Ilocos Sur. A UNESCO World Heritage City, Vigan is known for its cobblestone streets, preserved architecture, and a version of garlicky longganisa. Less recognized outside the region is an Ilocano delicacy called chicken pipian.
Known as a favorite of President Elpidio Quirino, this soup originates from Mexico. Three unique ingredients are key to mastering this simple chicken recipe.
First is a unique herb called pasotes. Outside Mexico, it only grows in Ilocos Sur. Second is kamias or bilimbi fruit, which lends the dish a sour profile. And last is toasted ground rice, a thickener that gives the soup its signature porridge-like consistency. Together with chicken and a few other ingredients, they make a rich, thick, and savory tomato dish worthy of country-wide acclaim.
Pinaupong Manok of Tarlac
Moving south but still in Luzon, you’ll reach Tarlac. For most tourists, the province is a mere stopover to get to one of its well-known neighbors, like Pampanga and Pangasinan. But next time you travel through the region, make a stop and search for this local creation.
Mrs. Catalina Panlilio Baron, more famously known as Imang Ninay, created the dish to use up older chickens from their poultry farm. She also had to find ways to feed their nine children without breaking the bank. The answer was pinaupong manok.
A whole chicken, salt, and water are its only ingredients. The first step is to season the bird with salt, then set this aside for a few hours or overnight. When ready, gut the chicken, place everything into a big pot (innards included), and cover with water. It has to “sit down” to let everything come out of the cavity and seep into the broth. Cook for around six hours or until all the liquid has reduced and the chicken has rendered its fat. Fry the chicken in this oil until golden brown.
Chicken Binakol of Aklan
Aklan is well-known for two things: the white sand beaches of Boracay and the Ati-Atihan, the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals." Many people don’t know that the province is also the origin of a comforting dish called chicken binakol.
Often compared to the more renowned tinolang manok, this soup uses coconut juice instead of rice water as its base. In Western Visayas, cooks use a lean native chicken called darag that lends the dish a distinct taste. Traditional recipes require pounding the bird to tenderize its meat. This explains the dish's name, taken from the Ilonggo bakol, meaning “to spank.”
Binakol calls for coconut meat to achieve a sweeter profile. It's sometimes even cooked in coconut shells or makeshift bamboo pots to incorporate more fresh flavors. Lemongrass, green papaya or chayote, and leafy vegetables round out the dish.
Piaparan a Manok of Lanao del Sur
In Mindanao, you will find the ancient Lake Lanao, home of the Maranao or the “people of the lake.” They're one of the largest Islamic local groups, famous for their intricate weaving traditions, woodcrafts, and metalworks. Their rich history of trade and migration from nearby Muslim countries differentiates their culinary traditions from other regional styles. Full of unique flavors and spices, Maranao cuisine is worthy of the journey south.
Chicken piaparan is famous among the Marano people, especially during special celebrations. Its main ingredients include coconut milk, grated coconut, turmeric, and a local ingredient known as palapa. Made with a scallion called sakurab, ginger, and chilies, palapa is a widely used condiment in Maranao cooking.
To make piaparan a manok, boil chicken in a broth with palapa, turmeric, Knorr Chicken Cubes, and other aromatics. Set the broth aside, then sauté the meat with a mixture of shredded coconuts, bell peppers, turmeric, and more palapa. To make the soup, add coconut milk and vegetables like chayote and cabbage to the reserved broth. Serve chicken with soup and rice for a complete meal.
In an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, many chicken recipes wait for their turn to step into the limelight. Play your part in uncovering these unique regional dishes and take pride in the country's rich food culture.