Monday, August 16, 2021




Bacolod Chicken House...the local legend


If ever there was any reason why Bacolod chicken inasal became the legendary Bacolod delicacy it is now known to be, it can all be traced back to Architect Joe Cajili's Chicken House. Currently known as Bacolod Chicken House, the real Chicken House started as a hole-in-the-wall at San Sebastian Street, catering to everyday passers-by.  Later on, it opened as a  small restaurant just across Colegio de San Agustin along North Drive (B.S. Aquino Drive today).

It's humble beginnings as a restaurant included an al fresco (back in the days it was just called "open-air") section which one was able to access through the sidewalk and that small street leading to the back of the Redemptorist Church. Long before there was a Manokan country at Bacolod's reclamation area, Chicken House had already set up shop. Joe Cajili's initial patrons were also his golfing buddies at the nearby Marapara club (Negros Occ. Golf and Country Club)

Chicken House's next branches were located at the downtown area along San Juan street (across the current location of Sylvia Manor) and at Mandalagan where it still serves its mouth watering roasted delights to this day. In the days when Chicken House was at San Juan, which was around the mid 1980s, I would only have to cross the Bacolod Public Plaza with my classmates from La Consolacion College to get to the little haven of chicken barbecue.  There, we would while away some time before catching up with one last class at 6:30 p.m.

Many other chicken houses or "inasalans" have followed the path led by Joe Cajili's local legend of a resto. One thing is sure though. One cannot claim to have been in Bacolod if he or she hasn't eaten at the real and only Bacolod Chicken House.

I wrote this in 2008 on the Multiply.com platform.

Chicken House...The Bacolod Legend

Bacolod Chicken House...the local legend If ever there was any reason why Bacolod chicken inasal became the legendary Bacolod delicacy...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

What You Didn't Know About Cuadra Street, Bacolod City

Bacolod City's famous chicken dish inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread far and wide across the globe reaching not just the United States of America but also the Middle East.  Unknown to many is the fact long before it reached foreign shores, inasal's humble beginnings are traced back to a small street in Bacolod known as Cuadra.

Before the legendary Manokan Country of Bacolod found its way on the culinary map, there was a series of small stalls along Cuadra Street, near Bacolod's public plaza which earned the name as Chicken Alley.  This was started by the Velez sisters, Elisa Velez-Garrucho and her sister Nena, and the other Velez siblings.

Given its proximity to the public plaza and because it was near jeepney stops, people flocked to the area to buy the barbecued chicken we now know as Bacolod chicken inasal.  One has to be reminded that back in the days of the 70s, the tasty dish we know of today was simply "inasal".  "Bacolod chicken inasal" as used in one phrase was still a long way off.

As its popularity grew, inasal found a new home in Bacolod's reclamation area which is known today as Manokan County (translated as Chicken Country).  Soon, the people of Bacolod started flocking to the stalls of Manokan Country which now offered seating to the diners.  As Manokan Country got too crowded, Elisa Velez-Garrucho decided to get out of Manokan Country and put up Chicken House in San Sebastian Street, near the Garrucho residence.  Eliza's sister, Nena, also followed soon.

Vincent V. Garrucho, one of Eliza's sons relates, "My brother Jomi Garrucho and myself, as well as my sisters, were trained since grade school to know the recipe by heart.  Honestly, we can do the ORIGINAL INASAL with our eyes closed.  Almost everyday, our packed lunch to school was... FRIED chicken inasal. People haven't tried that yet."  Vincent adds, "Me and my siblings as kids were trained to make the mix every morning before going to school and cook and serve in our resto after school."

Eliza Velez Garrucho is credited to have contributed greatly to making inasal the mainstream dish it is known today after exiting Manokan Country and starting the famous Bacolod Chicken House.  Eliza V. Garrucho sold Chicken House to the Cajili family in 1976 and the rest is history as the new owners have taken Chicken House and its distinct taste to inasal lovers like us.

Chicken House in Metro Manila is located in Makati along Chino Roces Ave., fronting Makati (Cinema) Square.



The writer, Lloyd Tronco, is from Bacolod, a chicken inasal lover and addict who always eats inasal with garlic rice and a stick of baticolon (chicken gizzard). 








Negros Island.  The SWEET Spot of the Philippines.



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This post is a long overdue piece because the idea for writing it came about late last year when an article appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, delving into how the lifestyles of Negrenses (inhabitants of Negros Island) were supposedly laid bare through the architecture and the ancestral homes seen across the island......Read More








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Negros Island.  The SWEET Spot of the Philippines.

Cuadra Street, Bacolod Chicken Inasal, and the Beginnings of Manukan Country

What You Didn't Know About Cuadra Street, Bacolod City Bacolod City's famous chicken dish inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread ...

Over the past two decades, Bacolod City's famous chicken dish, inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread far and wide across the globe, reaching the United States of America and to the sandy borders of the Middle East.  In the wave of Bacolod chicken inasal’s popularity, different restaurants specializing in inasal (the Hiligaynon word for grilled or spit-roasted) have aspired to be the servers of the most authentic of this Visayan chicken delicacy.  To examine where this all began, nothing comes close to going back to Bacolod City itself to unravel the mystique of this fowl favorite.

Our travel takes us back not only to the heart of Negros island, the “sweet spot” of the Philippines where sugarcane fields stretch endlessly to the horizon, but also chronologically to a time when Negros relished a boom in sugar production and exportation.  Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental was then a place with a laid-back lifestyle having a fair amount of urbanity within the backdrop of a rural landscape, beautifully enclosed by a natural border of rugged mountains.

We are transported to the decade of the 1960s, where we find the beginnings of Bacolod inasal as we know it now.  The downtown area of Bacolod sees an emergence of low-rise buildings built in art deco, meant to serve an economy revolving around the sugar industry.  Back then, people employed in the downtown offices and stores would clock out at five p.m. to go home to their families and have dinner by sundown.

To highlight of the end of a workday, some would buy a few sticks of grilled chicken from a small stall beside the Floredith Theater along Araneta Street, right next to the Bacolod City Hall.  It was here that Sabel Velez opened the first chicken inasal stall, serving what would eventually be among the most popular fowl viands of the Visayas.

Barbecued chicken is the more common description of what inasal really is.  Nevertheless, beneath the simplicity of inasal’s description lies the embodiment of Negrense island life, the agricultural abundance of the island finding its way into a stick of paa (leg) or pecho (breast).

Before the chicken hits the grill, it is quartered, segmented, and marinated in a concoction of ginger, garlic, calamansi, brown sugar, rock salt and native coconut vinegar.   Though sugarcane may be the main produce of Negros, coconuts abound too.  From here comes the vinegar which is an integral element for the inasal marinade, having the right amount of sourness to create that distinct, tangy flavor for which inasal is known for.

Equally important as an ingredient to the marinade is the right amount of brown sugar.  One can’t put too much sugar lest the sweetness overpower the other spices, the garlic and ginger, that lend flavor to inasal.

We’ve also found some home-made experiments on inasal wherein the sugar is substituted by ounces of Sprite, the carbonated beverage.  Such experimentations, perhaps inclusive of some random incantations, are what makes the quest for the most flavorful inasal exciting.  The timing as to how long the chicken is marinated is also part of inasal’s mystique – some want it longer, others want it short.

Skewering the chicken is also a ritual in its own right.  Most prefer to put it on skewers immediately after the chicken is quartered.  Yet, some opt to marinate the chicken prior to placing on the bamboo skewers.

With so much said about the marinate, it is easy to skip the importance of the chicken itself.  While most chicken inasal used native chicken, I learned from Toto Tarrosa of Aida’s, one of the best chicken inasal grills, that Aida’s was the first to use white leghorn chickens for inasal.  The reason why they opted to grill white leghorn chickens instead of the usual native chicken back in the day was partly due to the timing and availability.  Native chickens were sold out in the market by the early hours of the morning for various uses.  Given the timing of when to grill inasal, which is usually in the afternoon towards the end of the work day, the short supply for native chicken led to a happy discovery of a delicious version of inasal with the use of white leghorns. 


As it is, chicken inasal is really a viand meant to be eaten after five p.m.  For those who really understand the beginnings of this delicacy, eating inasal is not just about having it to fill one’s stomach come dinner time.  Eating chicken inasal more than anything else, is viewed as a subdued yet meaningful celebration of simple victories in life.  Honest work well done at the close of day, the joy of having family close by, it is the humble yet flavor-rich inasal that brings Bacolodians together in modest jubilation.  Eating chicken inasal is more than just having another chicken dish.  Wherever in the world it is eaten, it is a sacred communion that ties BacoleƱos and Negrenses back to their homeland, Bacolod…Negros Island…the sweet spot of the Philippines.



 



The writer, Lloyd Tronco, is from Negros Island.  This piece was written for the 2018 Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award.  The entry did not win, but it captures the richness and beauty of Negros Island, the land where Doreen Gamboa Fernandez grew up in.







Negros Island.  The SWEET Spot of the Philippines.






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Bacolod City's famous chicken dish inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread far and wide across the globe reaching not just the United States of America but also the Middle East.  Unknown to many is the fact long before it reached foreign shores, inasal's humble beginnings are traced back to a small street in Bacolod known as Cuadra......Read More



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Bacolod Chicken Inasal : Beyond Food, A Ritual

Over the past two decades, Bacolod City's famous chicken dish, inasal (barbecued chicken) has spread far and wide across the globe...

 

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