Monday, August 22, 2011

Chicharon Balat ng Manok or Tsitsarong Manok (Crackling Chicken Skin)

Filipinos love “chicharon” (“chicharron” in Spain) or deep fried pork skin so much. Sometimes called crackling in English, the versatile dish is eaten in so many ways: as a snack, morsel, viand, bites or tapas, appetizer, or simply an all-around food which easily beats small hunger while watching movies, TV shows, sports events and games, concerts or while on trips. The common people’s fascination with the dish even paved way into creating equally interesting but quite unique variations some of which I have already featured here such as the “chicharon bituka” or crackling intestines and “chicharon bulaklak” or deep fried pork mesentery.

To further explore the realm of “chicharon”, I decided to move on from just using pork cuts to chicken where there are currently two popular versions in the Philippine cuisine: the “chicharon balat ng manok” or “tsitsarong manok” (deep fried chicken skin) and “chicharong butse” (deep fried chicken crop). If the latter sort of causes your hair to rise as it will surely does to my wife, let’s forget it for a while and concentrate on the crackling chicken skin. :-) Some would probably still say yakkks! …… but not so fast, let’s keep it easy with chicken skin, okay? :)

While advocates of low fat diet and probably your mother and mine will loudly say chicken skin contains too much fat, recent studies reveal that it is actually fine to eat from time to time. It was reported that in-depth nutritional studies shows that the skin part of say a 12-once chicken breast only adds up about 2.5 grams saturated fat and 50 calories to the meat. It seems it is not really too much after all, more so if we will consider the flavors and taste benefits that it will bring into an otherwise most-boring lean meat called chicken breast.

The truth is, a bit of chicken skin now and then won’t really hurt your health and can even supply some healthful fat …… for about 55 percent of the fat in chicken skin is actually monounsaturated. If you don’t have an idea, that’s the heart-healthy kind of fat dieticians alike would want us to have. In addition, majority of the fat in chicken is found under the skin and not in the skin itself. Furthermore, by boiling the chicken skin, which is one of the steps in the preparation, the bulk of the worrisome fat would be released and would end up in the boiled water leaving very little measurable fat contents in the skin, not enough to even worry about.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chili Chicken, Deliciously Hot

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. :-)


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