Pyanggang Chicken (Blackened Coconut Grilled Chicken)
From time to time, we ask members of our barbecue community to write guest blogs, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for months! It comes from Alex Paman, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Filipino grilling. Alex was my go to guy when I went to Manila do research for my book Planet Barbecue, Alex told me where to go, what to eat, and set me up with a cousin as tour guide. Last year, he published the definitive book on Filipino grilling.
This blog is about a Filipino grilled chicken dish you surely won’t find outside the Philippines. You’ve heard of blackening Cajun style. The Filipino version uses charred coconut. I can’t wait to try it!
For decades, Filipino food in the mainstream was known mostly by the trinity of its most popular potluck dishes: pancit (noodles), lumpia (eggrolls), and pork and chicken adobo (meats stewed in vinegar and soy sauce).
But in recent years, due to the efforts of numerous chefs, food writers, and online bloggers, there has been a renaissance of sorts exploring native cuisine found outside conventional menus. While the Philippines is predominantly Catholic, there is a majority Muslim population on the southern island of Mindanao whose culinary treasures are only now gaining recognition.
Just a short time ago, Muslim dishes were either relegated to the southern region of the country, or confined to small pockets of that faith scattered throughout the archipelago. Gladly, local restaurants have begun showcasing this unique and delicious take on native cuisine, adding to the richness of Filipino culture.
Pyanggang Chicken comes from the Tausug tribe of Mindanao, and is a dish that is traditionally stewed in its flavorful sauce, then finished on the grill. For this article, it is being presented as a straight grilled dish. What makes it unique is its use of palapa itum, a type of aromatic spice paste (think of it as a sofrito) used to flavor various dishes. And integral to this sofrito is an even more unique ingredient: burnt coconut meat. Not toasted, singed, or browned, but burnt.
This burnt meat, extracted from the coconut shell as nearly a powder, gives a surprisingly deep and nutty flavor to the unique spice paste.