Chicken Inasal (Grilled or Roasted Chicken Basted in Annatto Oil)

imageInasal  is an Ilonggo (a dialect in Central Philippines)  word that simply means grilled or roasted.  A popular dish from Bacolod City in the Visayan islands, the secret of chicken inasal is in the annatto (achuete) oil that is used to baste the chicken while being grilled or roasted.  The oil also gives the chicken a distinctive orange or reddish color.

During my most recent trip to Manila, I was surprised at the growing number of restaurants serving or advertising inasal as part of their featured menu.  In fancier restaurants, the dish is usually served on a plate lined with a banana leaf.  In the original Bacolod version, however, street vendors sell chicken inasal on bamboo skewers, barbecue style. Either way, inasal is a unique and mouth-watering way to enjoy your chicken.  Next time you head for the backyard grill or your picnic in the park, go inasal!


4 pcs. chicken leg quarters (about 2 lbs)

1/2 cup annatto (achuete) seeds

2 cups olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 bay leaves

1 stalk lemongrass, chopped

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp red wine

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp fresh ginger, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste


In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the annatto seeds, garlic and bay leaves. Cook for about a minute before turning off heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for about an hour. Strain  and set aside the oil. In a large bowl, combine the lemongrass, lemon juice, red wine, sugar and  ginger. Pour in the annatto oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken legs, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight before grilling. In the absence of a grill, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place the chicken legs on a shallow baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Save the marinade.  Place the pan in the oven and constantly baste the chicken pieces with the saved marinade until full cooked.  If desired, turn oven to broil in the last two minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and serve with steamed rice topped with roasted garlic bits and your favorite fresh green salad.  Instead of salad, you can also serve the chicken with cucumber, and fresh chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro.


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