The typical chicken inasal has a marinade that has notes of lemongrass, vinegar, and soy sauce, plus the subtle flavors of the annatto oil that it is basted with. It’s really an inherently simple recipe.
But did you know that a simple addition to the recipe can work wonders for this chicken dish? The umami flavors in fortified margarine up the flavor of the basting liquid into one that elevates an already good chicken to one that’s lip-smacking good.
The secret ingredient? Star Margarine! Most would remember the TV ads peddling it as a butter substitute as it was scooped from the container, then placed perfectly on top of steaming white rice. It melted as you continue to watch before it’s gently covered with a spoonful of the steaming rice to become a glistening mound of the yellow-hued rice we ate with gusto. It was salty, buttery, and gave the normally bland rice extra oomph.
In short, it was delicious. (It also claimed to help build a strong body, too, which encouraged moms to add it in by the heaping spoonful.)
So just imagine the buttery, slightly salty, slightly creamy flavor of margarine slathered on chicken. You’ll notice that the oil gives the basting liquid a shine, the annatto the distinct reddish-orange hue, and the margarine, yellow-whitish swirls that remain just suspended in the mixture around it. Taste it and, together with the chicken powder, it adds another dimension of saltiness but with a creaminess that only butter can add.
And while adding margarine may not be the classic way of doing inasal, the flavors that result in adding this simple, everyday ingredient that is tasty in its own right may just be the missing element that makes kids and adults alike say, “Yum”.
1/2 cup vinegar, use Sinamak
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 stalks lemongrass (tanglad), pounded
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pounded
1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 kilo chicken, use chicken thighs
3/4 cup atsuete oil (annatto oil), (see recipe below)
1/2 cup margarine (we used Star Margarine)
2 teaspoons chicken powder
4 cups rice, cooked
1/4 cup garlic, minced
3 tablespoons canola oil
For atsuete oil:
atsuete oil (annatto oil), for coloring
1/2 cup atsuete seeds (annatto seeds)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 Make the marinade: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Marinate chicken thighs in the mixture for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
2 Thread chicken onto barbecue sticks. Prepare a charcoal grill. When it’s ready, cook the chicken over a medium flame. Mix together atsuete oil, star margarine, and chicken powder. Reserve about 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) for the rice. Baste the chicken with the atsuete oil mixture every few minutes until the meat is well done and juices run clear.
3 Make the atsuete rice: in a frying pan, sauté garlic in canola oil over medium heat. When garlic has turned light brown, add rice and continue sautéing. Add atsuete oil a little at a time until you have reached the desired color. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the chicken.
4 Make the atsuete oil: In a saucepan, combine annatto seeds (atsuete) and oil. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the annatto dyes the oil red-orange, then turn off heat. Strain seeds and discard. Use oil as directed.