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Pyanggang Chicken (Blackened Coconut Grilled Chicken)

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Pyanggang Chicken comes from the Tausug tribe of Mindanao, Philippines, 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.

 

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Pyanggang Chicken (Blackened Coconut Grilled Chicken)

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Method: Grilling in the embers/indirect grilling

Ingredients

  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 whole coconuts, green husks removed

For the Spice Paste

  • 2 heaping tablespoons burnt coconut meat, ground with a spoon or in a pestle (see below)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • ¼ small red onion, peeled and rough-chopped
  • 1 ½ inch knob of ginger, peeled and rough-chopped
  • 1 ½ inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and rough-chopped, or 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 green onion, trimmed and sliced crosswise
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, lower white part only, trimmed and sliced crosswise
  • 2 Thai bird chiles, stemmed and rough-chopped (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For Coconut Milk Basting Sauce

  • cups Remaining spice paste
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste

Recipe Steps

1: Burning and extracting the coconut meat: On a hard outdoor surface, rest each coconut on its side and firmly tap its shell with a hammer, rotating it with each strike. Crack each coconut in half, discarding the liquid inside. Set aside.

Create a flat bed of searing hot coals and place each coconut shell on top, meat-side down. Let the shells roast between 15-20 minutes, until the meat inside is charred black. Carefully remove from the heat and let cool.

With a spoon, scrape the coconut meat off its shell and reserve in a bowl. Set aside.

2: Making the spice paste: Place garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, green onion, and lemongrass, and chili peppers, if using, in a food processor and grind to break down. Slowly pour in the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to create a smooth paste. Drizzle in about one tablespoon of the blackened coconut meat powder and continue to blend. Season with salt, to taste.

3: Combine the chicken pieces and spice paste together in a bowl or plastic storage bag, making sure the meat is fully coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours, up to overnight.

4: When ready to grill, remove the chicken pieces from the container and place on a platter. Reserve the spice paste.

5: Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Place a drip pan between the piles of coals. Position the chicken on the grate over the drip pan and cook with the lid down for 40 minutes.

6: While the chicken is cooking, make the basting sauce.

7: Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir-fry the spice paste until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and bring to a low boil, continuing to stir. Lower the heat, then add about a half a teaspoon of the burnt coconut meat for color. Season with salt, to taste. Set aside.

8: After the forty minutes, move the chicken pieces directly over the coals and baste with the sauce. Turn over after ten minutes and repeat the process. (Total cooking time on the chicken thighs will be about 60 minutes. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees.)

9: Remove the chicken from the heat and serve warm with steaming white rice and the remaining warmed basting sauce.

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