Filipino food, the cuisine of the people from the Philippines, is something that I’m not all that familiar with having only experienced it a few times. So I was rather excited when the opportunity arose to attend a Filipino-themed potluck dinner party. Not only would I be able to experience more of their cuisine (home cooked no less) but I’d also have the opportunity to learn how to make a Filipino dish to contribute to the party.
The dish I’d brought to the party was Chicken Asado, a stew of chicken and potatoes in sweet, rich and tangy tomato-based sauce. Chicken Asado, much like the people and the country that it’s native to, is a dish that looks Asian but sounds Hispanic.
While Chicken Asado may seem exotic to some, it’s a dish that is about as familiar, as accessible and as delicious as chicken with barbecue sauce.
Yes, barbecue sauce. Whether by design or through sheer coincidence, the sauce for this recipe is essentially a modified barbecue sauce. If you’re familiar with what goes into a barbecue sauce you’ll know that a typical barbecue sauce generally have a tomato base, onions and garlic, brown sugar or some other sweet element, some acidity for tang, as well as some spices and additional flavours. All the elements are there – tomato paste, onions and garlic, brown sugar, lemon juice for tang, as well as star anise and soy sauce for spice and additional flavours.
The recipe is reasonably simple and fairly straightforward, though it does consist of a lot of small steps. These steps are there build layers of flavours as well as to get the right balance in the sauce as well as the doneness of the chicken and potatoes. You could just throw all the ingredients into a pot, simmmer until everything is cooked but it won’t have anywhere near the flavour and unctuousness this way.
This recipe was designed with a pressure cooker in mind to get the consistency of the chicken and potatoes such that the chicken is so tender that it practically slips off the bone while the potatoes are tender as well, though not to the point of disintegrating into the sauce. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t worry. Instructions have been included in the recipe for those without one, though you may find that the chicken, while perfectly fine and cooked through, may not be quite as tender.
Chicken Asado is a one-pot dish that sounds exotic but have a familiar flavour to it. If you’ve never had Filipino food, step out of comfort zone and give this recipe a go. Once you do, you’ll realise that this dish was right in your comfort zone all along.
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Chicken Asado (Serves 4)
1kg Chicken wings
Cooking oil, neutral
1 Medium onion, large dice
50g Butter, preferably unsalted
1 Garlic clove, crushed
5 Bay leaves
70g Tomato paste (5 Tbsp)
55g Brown sugar (3 Tbsp)
30g Soy sauce (2 Tbsp)
35g Lemon juice (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
5g Chicken bullion powder (1 tsp) [Optional]
2 Star anise
5 Small waxy potatoes, peeled and halved
Water (approx. 800mL)
1. Break down the chicken wings into drumettes and wing pieces.
2. Pour enough cooking oil to generously cover the bottom of the pot and heat on medium-high until shimmering.
3. Fry the chicken pieces in small batches until all sides are browned.
4. Turn down the heat to low and pour out most of the oil, leaving approx. 1-2 Tbsp in the pot.
5. While off the heat, add the diced onions to the pot and sweat for around 30 seconds to bring down the heat of the pot.
6. Add the butter and put the pot back onto the heat to allow it to gently melt and continue sweating the onions, making sure to scrap up the brown bits (fond) from the base of the pan.
7. Once the onions are translucent, add the bay leaves and crushed garlic and sweat for approx. 30-60 seconds until they become aromatic.
8. Add the tomato paste and turn the heat up to medium. Stir and fry the tomato paste for around 1 minute.
9. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice and optional chicken bullion powder, stir and fry for around 1 minute.
10. Test the sauce to ensure it’s properly seasoned and well balanced at this stage as this will be close to its final consistency. It should be mildly sweet, tangy and well seasoned, though not salty.
11. Add the browned chicken pieced back into the pot along with the peeled potatoes and toss in the sauce to coat all sides.
12. Pour enough water to barely cover the chicken and potatoes and add the star anise. Turn the heat on high, stir the contents gently until they’re well combined and then cover with the lid.
13a. [Pressure cooker] Bring the pot to pressure and then turn down to low and cook for 10 mins. Use a rapid release method to remove the lid like running cool water down the side of the pressure cooker so the potatoes don’t overcook.
13b. [Standard pot] Once the sauce begins to boil, turn the heat down the low and simmer until the potatoes are just tender.
14. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, gently remove the chicken and potatoes, leaving the bay leaves and star anise in the pot.
15. Reduce the remaining liquid until it becomes a thick sauce. Taste the sauce to ensure that it’s balanced and seasoned. Add more lemon juice for tang or soy sauce for seasoning if necessary.
16. Add the potatoes back into the thick sauce and toss gently to coat all sides. Remove the potatoes from the pot and place onto the serving dish. Do the same for the chicken. Serve with some steamed rice.
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