I once read a fellow food blogger’s account about an amazing chili chicken dish being served in one of the restaurants of the world renowned resort island Boracay of the beautiful southern Philippines. The story appeared to have come from a truly satisfied and in fact a repeat customer therefore I assumed the descriptions supplied were quite accurate, balanced and truthful. Since I am fond of innovative, adventurous and exotic, not to mention really spicy foods, the idea of personally re-creating an extremely hot but still palatable and tasty (falling within the not-so-high heat tolerance of common Filipinos) “chili chicken” lingers in my mind.
While the idea is strong it remains incomplete and waiting for some forms of stimuli or crucial information that would finally compel me to trying the unusual but exciting chicken dish. The right moment came just mid of last month while our group was doing our regular shopping for a week’s food supply. There in the fresh meat section of our favorite supermarket (we actually have very few choices), some crews were enthusiastically offering patrons with a free taste of their new marinated meat selection called “miris kukula” or chili chicken which they fried right there inside the supermarket.
Sri Lanka is one country who really loves chilies in their cuisine and we have always known (and tested) Sri Lankan food as very spicy (a.k.a. heavily spiked with chilies) on top of its being usually rich and seriously curried. It turned out, the fried chicken pieces, which they are marketing as both a viand and a bites (“pulutan”), were quite tasty but living up to its name …… it’s really hot.
At that point, I thought all I have to do is gather a little information from the crews who are actually preparing the special marinade and my long planned chili chicken could have a major breakthrough. Quite luckily, the crews, who have always been kind and friendly to us (perhaps because we are light-hearted and always smiling …… okay make that, because we are regularly buying 3-5 carts full of food and grocery items providing them with regular sales), are most willing to share us their secret ingredients. :-)
Probably thinking we will not be in any way a competition or business threat against their company being just expats staying in their country on a temporary basis, they divulged the exact ingredients they use in the marinade preparation. Their version generally utilizes lots of garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sri Lankan chili paste which they combine altogether and blend into a homogenous paste-like marinade.
It is then added to slices of chicken breast fillets and let the meat marinate for at least overnight. Additional chopped red chilies are garnished on top but probably just for color and to make the presentation even more hotly appealing. The meat pieces are then fried until golden brown, somewhat crisp outside but still juicy inside.
To make my version of the chili chicken, I of course use my favorite chicken cut which happens to be thigh. By all means you can use chicken breast; it will be a lot easier and probably healthier. I like the texture and taste of thighs however. About 1½ kilograms of the meat will suffice.
First, debone the thighs then slice them into strips. Washed them several times then drained properly. I kept the skin on but you can discard them if you like. I guess it wouldn’t make a big difference anyway.
To make the marinade, the following are the ingredients: 3 heads garlic, peeled, ½ cup soy sauce or to taste depending on the type, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 150 grams (about ¾ cup) chili paste (Sri Lankan type if you have) and 1 red chili pepper. The supermarket uses MSG but I don’t think it’s really necessary.
Into the blender, place the garlic and chili paste. Add in soy sauce, sesame oil and MSG if you are using. Cover tightly and pulse it several times until the ingredients are broken down and blended evenly into a homogenous paste. Taste and adjust the amount of soy sauce. Just be careful as it is expectedly hot.
Pulse it a couple of times more until a smooth, rich and gravy-like consistency is attained.
In a wide container, place the chicken pieces. Pour the marinade on top and mix properly until the meat is evenly coated and covered with the marinade. Sprinkle some finely chopped chilies on the top.
Place it inside the fridge and marinate for at least 1 day. Stir once in a while to ensure even infusion of flavors.
To cook, heat about 1 cup of vegetable oil in a small deep aluminum or non-stick pan. Take the marinated meat from the fridge and stir once again.
When the oil is already hot, cook the marinated chicken in batches. Fry each side until golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside.
Continue frying in batches until everything is done. Properly drain the cooked chili chicken in paper towels to remove excess oil before transferring in serving plates.
Serve as a meal with lots of steamed rice, some tomato slices and any dipping sauce of your choice on the side. If you prefer, you can also serve it as bites or appetizer or “pulutan” over a bottle of your favorite drinks with some friends. :-)
For breakfast, you can serve the dish alongside some fried eggs and adobo garlic fried rice or dried fish fried rice or “bagoong fried rice” for a uniquely Filipino early morning treat. It will sure propel your energy to keep you going throughout the day. Enjoy! c“,)