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
- 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.