The Bacolod Chicken Inasal may be as popular all over the world as the city it hails from–the City of Smiles–Bacolod City. But the simple chicken barbecue from the 70s already came a long way to our present tastes.
The Bacolod chicken inasal may sound exotic to some but for Bacolodnons, it is simply a chicken part that was marinated, skewered, and cooked over an open charcoal grill. It is called inasal, because it is the Hiligaynon term for skewered. Presentations, manner of cooking, and most especially taste, have already evolved and many Bacolod chicken inasal houses have come to be known because of their own taste or style of cooking.
The truth of the matter is, no two kinds of Bacolod chicken inasal are the same. It is just a collective name, but if you go to different Bacolod restaurants, each one has their own version. And people would go to the place who taste they prefer. Or maybe, if they are friends with the owners.
How We Love Bacolod Chicken Inasal
My family and I love Bacolod chicken inasal. We often eat out or just buy these for take out and eat it in the confines of our dining room where we can have eat all you can rice and bottomless drinks without having to pay extra. We also bring these along with other grilled dishes during potluck dinners with the rest of the clan.
We eat our Bacolod chicken inasal with our hands, with steamed or garlic rice, and lots of chicken oil (which is actually just cooking oil colored with achuete a.ka. anato oil to produce that dark orange hue).
Bacolod Chicken Inasal Throwdown
But it was not until recently that I was able to really to dissect the tastes of different chicken inasal brands. We usually devour our chicken with rice without meticulously studying the taste. As long as it’s dip in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili, we are good.
Last month, however, hubby and I got invited to the Bacolod Chicken Inasal Throwdown organized by the Entrepreneurial class of the University of St. La Salle held at the Bob’s Open Grounds. It was a lunchtime event. While we were parking our car from a distance, we could already smell the pleasant aroma of Bacolod chicken inasal being grilled. The smell is unmistakable.
We learned that three popular houses, Nena’s Rose, Aida’s, and Masskara Chicken joined the event. The audience, which numbered more than a hundred, were served with pecho-pak (breast with wing) from the three different Bacolod chicken inasal houses but we were not told which came from whom.
From tasting all of them, we had to decide which was the best one for us based merely on the taste. Yeah. It was a blind audition…I mean, taste test.
Most of us in our table unanimously chose one and it later turned out to be Bacolod chicken inasal from Aida’s Manokan. It did garner the most votes from the rest of the audience. But before you make judgments, read the rest of my article thought.
Below are perhaps the most popular Bacolod chicken inasal joints in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
Bacolod Chicken Inasal Restaurants
Chicken House is the original Bacolod chicken inasal. But it was owned by a different family back in the 70s (Read the Bacolod Chicken Inasal history below, as written by Lloyd Tronco).
At present, they now have branches at Araneta St., Lacson St., San Juan Street, and Hilado St. (Shopping) and people come here for their flavorful Bacolod chicken inasal as well as their grilled pork chop. Their chicken tastes simple yet complicated, the meat is tender, and is grilled just right. The flavors go through and through the meat.
And aside from the taste, many people come here and bring their guests because they have a much nicer physical restaurant, among other Bacolod restaurants serving inasal. They have an air conditioned area, too, that can become a function room if you want your gathering to be exclusive. But you just have to pay an extra 10% on your bill if you occupy the aircon room.
Aida’s Manokan was the first choice among the most favorite in the Bacolod chicken inasal in the event, perhaps because their chicken is so flavorful. It was cooked just right. And you see, Bacolod chicken inasal has a rather sour taste brought about by the vinegar. It is NOT marinated in soy sauce, so the flesh remains white. Vinegar is just combined with several other ingredients, including ginger, but it is not colored.
The basting, however, has anato oil, which explains the rather orangey-brownish skin when cooked. But inside, it is white. I think that Aida’s represented the essence of Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
Chicken Deli has been around for decades. They are the only ones among Bacolod restaurants that serve their kind of Bacolod chicken inasal. While they grill cook their barbecue over charcoal, they have a fan that continuously blows the smoke away. The result is that their chicken is cooked a little bit longer, is a bit dryer, but the skin does not have a lot of those charred parts. They have their own market for this kind of chicken inasal. And the taste is also very good!. At present, they offer unli-rice in their restaurants.
The name Nena’s has many spin off restaurants, including Nena’s Rose. But perhaps they are the most popular because if my recollection is right, they are the first to get out of their comfort zone at Manokan Country and branch out. I think right now, they have 2 or 3 branches, aside from the one at Manokan.
While, we also buy from them and occasionally eat at their branch at B.S. Aquino Drive, what we don’t like is that most of the skin gets burned. I think it is because of the abrupt fire. But the result is juicy Bacolod chicken inasal. We just remove most of the skin though because it has transformed mostly to carbon.
Masskara Chicken is one of the newest players but they quickly became popular. Their Bacolod chicken inasal is I think a wee bit bigger and also very flavorful but not sour. And also, theirs is yellow-orange, which makes me think that they marinate theirs with achuete. They have a branch in Villamonte (cor. B.S. Aquino and Narra Extension) and Robinsons City Walk.
The Manokan Country is the hub of Bacolod Chicken Inasal. There are I think more than 10 open restaurants here serving inasal and other grilled chicken stuff and pork as well as blanched oysters. There are no air conditioned areas here but people come here for the food and guests for the experience.
Lion’s Park Grill Haus
Lion’s Park Grill Haus is the first restaurant on the right side facing Manokan Country. It is set apart from the other open restos because it has its own garden and a children’s playground. Many families come here for their favorite chicken inasal as well as the talaba “oysters”. They also have a turo-turo food counter for those who do not want to wait or would want to have other dishes aside from inasal.
Yes, Bacolod chicken inasal, pork barbecue, and many other inasal stuff are street food around here in our city because it seems that there is no street corner without a food cart and something grilling from late in the afternoons until late evenings.
My husband and especially like the ones at the corner of Hospital Avenue and Lacson St., the corner of Hilado and Burgos Sts, in Libertad, and one at Airport Subdivision. These are the ones nearest to us but I know that there are more around the city and in the barangays. Each village has its own Bacolod chicken inasal joint, too, and they have their own suki (patrons). Yes, inasal is everywhere in our city.
So whatever taste you fancy, there is always a Bacolod chicken inasal for you. Just remember to eat the inasal and rice using your hands. It’s how we the locals do it here with much gusto. I dunno how it is so, but it seems using your hands while eating makes the food more appetizing. And well, yeah, it’s fun and gross at the same time. :p Welcome to Bacolod!
Here’s a little background about Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
History of Bacolod Chicken Inasal
Written by Lloyd Tronco
Published in his blog, Talonggo
“Bacolod City’s famous chicken dish inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread far and wide across the globe reaching not just the United States of America but also the Middle East. Unknown to many is the fact long before it reached foreign shores, the humble beginnings of Bacolod chicken inasal are traced back to a small street in Bacolod known as Cuadra.
Before the legendary Manokan Country of Bacolod found its way on the culinary map, there was a series of small stalls along Cuadra Street, near Bacolod’s public plaza which earned the name as Chicken Alley. This was started by the Velez sisters, Elisa Velez-Garrucho and her sister Nena, and the other Velez siblings.
Given its proximity to the Bacolod public plaza and because it was near jeepney stops, people flocked to the area to buy the barbecued chicken we now know as Bacolod chicken inasal. One has to be reminded that back in the days of the 70s, the tasty dish we know of today was simply “inasal”. “Bacolod chicken inasal” as used in one phrase was still a long way off.
As its popularity grew, inasal found a new home in Bacolod’s reclamation area which is known today as Manokan County (translated as Chicken Country). Soon, the people of Bacolod started flocking to the stalls of Manokan Country which now offered seating to the diners. As Manokan Country got too crowded, Elisa Velez-Garrucho decided to get out of Manokan Country and put up Chicken House in San Sebastian Street, near the Garrucho residence. Eliza’s sister, Nena, also followed soon.
Vincent V. Garrucho, one of Eliza’s sons relates, “My brother Jomi Garrucho and myself, as well as my sisters, were trained since grade school to know the recipe by heart. Honestly, we can do the ORIGINAL INASAL with our eyes closed. Almost everyday, our packed lunch to school was… FRIED chicken inasal. People haven’t tried that yet.” Vincent adds, “Me and my siblings as kids were trained to make the mix every morning before going to school and cook and serve in our resto after school.”
Eliza Velez Garrucho is credited to have contributed greatly to making Bacolod chicken inasal the mainstream dish it is known today after exiting Manokan Country and starting the famous Bacolod Chicken House. Eliza V. Garrucho sold Chicken House to the Cajili family in 1976 and the rest is history as the new owners have taken Chicken House and its distinct taste to inasal lovers like us.”
Maria Sigrid D. Lo is a multi-awarded Bacolod lifestyle blogger and social media advocate. It is her desire to make the city known to the world through her online presence. She promotes Bacolod restaurants, food tourism, social media etiquette, breastfeeding, and a greener Bacolod City in her blogs and talks. She loves taking photos, mostly of her children and of food. She is a proud member of the Negrense Blogging Society Inc. (NBSI) or the #NegrosBloggers.