Every October since 1980, thousands of tourists ﬂ y to Bacolod to experience the grand festivities that the city has to offer—a month-long merrymaking otherwise known as the MassKara Festival.
Probably as popular as the festival is a dish native to the city, that has pleased palates all over the country and across the globe—the chicken inasal.
Inasal is a Hiligaynon term for chargrilled meat marinated in sinamak (native coconut vinegar) and tanglad (lemon grass). During the grilling process, the meat is basted with margarine and atsuete (annatto seeds) oil. The result is a mouth-watering chicken worth waiting in line for, leading to the creation of the first Bacolod’s Chicken Inasal Festival last May 2018. Over 3,000 guests lined up along the 300-meter long grill to get a taste of the city’s inasal. People from all over Bacolod and the world joined in the fun, including the Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev.
If you couldn’t make it to the festival, you can still satisfy your inasal craving at Manokan Country, a one-story food complex that houses local eateries. It’s located along Father M. Ferrero St. and is open from as 7:30 a.m to 3 a.m.
In the midst of all the chicken inasal establishments in Manokan Country lies the legendary Aida’s Chicken. Established in 1975, the restaurant first put down roots in Caudra Street and then relocated to the city’s reclaimed land in 1982. Named after the owner’s mother, Adelaida S. Tarrosa, Aida’s Chicken has been one of the most-visited places in Manokan Country by locals and tourists alike.
Aida’s Chicken is hard to miss because it’s located right at the center, with a statue of a giant yellow chicken. If the bird didn’t get your attention, the warm and friendly staff of Aida’s Chicken inviting you to try their best-selling chicken inasal surely will.
Their menu consists of pecho (breasts), pakpak (wings), paa (feet), isol (chicken butt), puso (heart), baticolon (gizzard), atay (liver), tina-e (intestine), and bulo-o (chicken skin). Their famous dish, the skewered chicken pechopak (chicken breast and wing), comes fresh out of the grill served with a hot cup of java rice, topped with toasted garlic bits, and drizzled all over with generous servings of chicken oil.
To best appreciate this dish, locals recommend dunking the chicken in your dip of choice: either the staple toyomansi (soy sauce with calamondin fruit) and siling labuyo (chili pepper) or the local sinamak (Iloilo’s version of coconut spiced vinegar).
For maximum satisfaction, try their offerings with the chicken oil, which is made by pan-frying loads of chicken skin with garlic and atsuete (anicetto seeds) oil. The oil is extracted from the chicken skin, resulting in the sinfully delicious sauce that perfectly complements the inasal.
With its dripping sauce and oil, customers are encouraged to drop their inhibitions and dig in. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In this case, patrons could make the experience more authentic by using their hands. The restaurant actually features a hand-washing station for this very purpose.
Considering the business’ massive success in its 44 years of existence, one wonders why they don’t have branches in other parts of the country. The restaurant’s manager, Suzette Tarrosa, says it’s a matter of maintaining authenticity. But she also shares good news: Aida’s Chicken now has two new branches—at the Riverside Hospital in Bacolod and at the Makati Cinema Square in Legaspi Village, Makati City.
For Bacolod, their chicken inasal been instrumental to the city’s economic growth. As the Most Competitive Highly-Urbanized City in the Visayas region, Bacolod has shown that food not only brings people together, it can also help a city move closer to its dreams. — ALAINE GONZALES