Dads Cook Good Food

For dads who enjoy cooking for their families

Musings about Chicken Binakol and Ilonggo food

Namit gid (It’s really delicious!) was the first thought that came to mind when I saw the photograph of Chicken Binakol (Chicken Stewed in Coconut Water) from the recipe book, Kulinarya. I’ve cooked most of their soup-based dish but never dared chicken binakol. I was threatened by the thought of cooking it (not because it rhymes with palakol-Filipino word for ax! Lol 😀 ) and that it entails ingredients, such as young coconut, that may be difficult to find in temperate Canada. Also, having only worked and lived in Iloilo for ten months as a Jesuit volunteer (Jesuit Volunteers Philippines or JVP), my only attempt to break into Ilonggo cuisine was cooking batchoy out of memory (see previous article on Chicken Teriyaki). You see, I was a bit spoiled by the Jesuits of Iloilo,  because, unlike my co-volunteers, I had the privilege of having a cook prepare my meals. In fact, every meal turned out to be a culinary treat because I lived with Jesuit priests coming from Germany, the United States, China, Bohol and Bacolod so I also ate what they ate. 😀

Similarly, thanks to my Ilonggo colleagues, students and co-volunteers who brought me to places where food was delicious and affordable. I still pine for the lemon-grass flavoured chicken inasal (grilled chicken with lemon-grass and spices) with sinamak (spiced vinegar) of Joe’s Chicken Inato and Tatoy’s. And I distinctly remember the taste of seafood at Breakthrough or the afternoon snack of batchoy at Ted’s Oldtimer’s, which caused my blood pressure to shoot up. I recall enjoying the soft, tasty cheesebread of Tibiao’s with the barrio folk of Barrio Obrero. Finally, I remember munching some crunchy biscocho from Wewin’s or chewy butterscotch brownies from Biscocho Haus after having the best take-out pancit from Roberto’s on my birthday. Wow! All that gastronomic memories and excuses for not cooking chicken binakol!

But I digress. I thought that the best way to overcome my craving for Ilonggo food (and yes, fear!) for cooking chicken binakol is to try cooking it. Thanks to a nearby Asian supermarket, I found most of the ingredients I needed. And the best part of preparing binakol was, after 1 ½ hours, we all had a delicious and warm meal after a busy day at work! Namit gid!

*Iloilo, for your information, is one of the bigger island provinces of the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines.

CHICKEN BINAKOL (Chicken Stewed in Coconut Water)
1 500 gm. chicken breast, bone in
1 bunch of spinach
1 ½ cups of chicken broth*
¼ teaspoon peppercorns
¼ cup fish sauce (Patis)
2 stems of spring onions, chopped
1 knob of ginger, sliced
2 stems of lemon grass, bulbs crushed
1 can of young coconut, sliced
2 cups of coconut water


        1. Prepare all ingredients.

          2. Pre-heat a pot over MEDIUM heat then add oil and sauté garlic, onion, ginger, and lemon grass.

          3. When the onion starts to glaze (or turns translucent), add the chicken breast and peppercorn. Toss and mix the sautéed herbs and spices on the chicken for about 3 minutes then add the fish sauce. Let it stand for about 3 minutes until the chicken’s skin turns a bit brown.

          4. Add the chicken broth then the coconut juice to the sautéed chicken.

          4. Cover and let the soup boil for about 30 minutes (or until the chicken meat is cooked).  Remove the excess fat and scum that rises to the surface** to ensure a clear soup+.  Reduce to LOW heat to allow the broth to simmer.

          5. Remove the cooked chicken breast quickly from the pot and carve the chicken into bite-size strips.

          6. Return the chicken strips to the pot and add the young coconut strips. Bring the broth to a boil and finally, add the spinach leaves and spring onions.

          7. Serve* and enjoy! This recipe is good for 4-6 servings.

+Kulinarya suggests cooling the soup and refrigerating until the excess fat from the chicken forms on the surface.

**I used Knorr Chicken Bouillon for this one so be mindful when adding fish sauce to avoid having a salty soup. However, for a tastier soup, you can use chicken broth made from boiling chicken bones, salt and pepper.

*If you have time and extra money, you can serve the soup on a young coconut nut 🙂 . In North America, some Asian supermarkets sell young coconuts for a reasonable price.


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