Filipino dishes are almost always eaten with rice, and chicken inasal is no exception to this rule. The barbequed chicken dish is marinated in citrus, vinegar and lemongrass and basted in nutty annatto oil. According to John Rivera, the gelato genius behind Melbourne’s Kariton Sorbetes and former chef at Sunda and Amaru, it’s a dish that might taste a bit familiar to some. “[Australians who] grew up on the corner charcoal chicken shop will love the intense tangy, salty, spicy, sweet flavours that Filipino food is known for.”
Plain white rice will usually soak up all that flavour, but Rivera’s given the dish a twist, placing the juicy, charred meat between slices of Abbott’s Bakery white sourdough. “Sourdough’s already got that natural tang, and it’s got the body to hold on to a messier, saucier sandwich. I think sourdough bread can take on those bigger, bolder flavours and those hefty fillings without it falling apart,” he says.
The recipe seems deceptively daunting, but Rivera says it’s a breeze if you take the time to prep. Some components can be made in advance – and might be better that way. The chicken, for instance, will taste better if you let it sit in the marinade longer.
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“I’ve thought of this recipe for somebody that’s working from home and doesn’t want to go out, but has these things on hand already,” says Rivera. “They probably made the pickles a couple of days before, the chicken they’ve marinated overnight because they wanted to make themselves a nice lunch the next day.”
Most of the ingredients can be picked up at your nearest Asian supermarket, with easy swaps available at regular groceries. Annatto seed, or achuete, gives the dish a mild earthy flavour, richer mouthfeel and an enticing orange hue, though Rivera says you can substitute it with extra smoked paprika to get a similar result.
And calamansi, a tiny but mighty citrus native to the Philippines, is used in an aioli to cut through the smokiness. “It’s rare, but if you can find it in your Asian grocery, or if you've got an Asian aunty that’s growing it in their backyard, it’s worth the trouble,” says Rivera. “If not, lemon or lime work just as well and [are] easily accessible.”
Bonus: you’ll end up with more of each component than you’ll need for just the sandwich. Dip hot chips or crudité in the aioli or add it to a burger; the atchara (pickled papaya) goes well with other grilled meats, roast pork with crackling or coal-roasted fish; and the annatto oil can be used to flavour rice or as part of a vinaigrette.
Recipe: John Rivera’s grilled chicken inasal sandwich with green papaya pickles and “chillimansi” aioli
Makes 2 sandwiches
Prep time: Minimum 2 hours (if not marinating overnight)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
4 slices of Abbott’s Bakery sourdough white
Achuete (annatto) oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp annatto seeds
½ tbsp smoked paprika (more, if skipping the annatto seeds)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 lemon peel (approx 5cm in length)
½ tsp black pepper
4 boneless and skinless chicken thigh fillets
½ cup coconut vinegar (or white vinegar)
½ cup lemon soda (commercial lemonade or lemon squash)
¼ cup calamansi juice (or lemon or lime juice)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
½ tbsp lemongrass paste
½ tbsp salt
¼ tbsp black pepper, toasted and crushed
¼ tbsp white pepper, toasted and crushed
Atchara (green papaya pickle)
1 small green papaya, peeled and julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt, divided
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp calamansi juice (or lemon or lime juice)
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Maggi or Knorr liquid seasoning
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
For the annatto oil, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly heat up the oil, mixing occasionally. Once the oil starts to bubble, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard solids. Store oil in an airtight jar and use as needed.
For the chicken inasal, combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag. Seal the bag, then shake it and massage the marinade into the chicken. Allow to marinade in the fridge overnight, or for at least 1 hour.
To make the atchara, combine green papaya, carrot and jalapeño in a fine colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt evenly over the vegetables and mix well. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse the vegetables in cold water to remove excess salt and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Place into a clean jar (or any container you can use for pickling).
In a saucepan, combine garlic, vinegar, sugar and remaining teaspoon of salt. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to ensure everything is combined and dissolved. Pour the pickling liquid into your pickling container until the vegetables are completely submerged. Mix to ensure all gaps are filled. Seal the container and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. This pickle can keep for up to three months in the fridge.
For the “chillimansi” aioli, combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a grill; a heavy bottom fry pan works too, a barbeque is even better. Once the grill is at high heat, brush with a light coating of oil to stop the chicken from sticking. Place chicken thighs on the grill, making sure not to overcrowd – you may need to do it in batches depending on the size of your grill or pan.
Cook on one side until it is nicely charred, then flip over. Baste the grilled side with the annatto oil. Cook on the reverse side until once again nicely charred and thighs are cooked through. Remove from heat and baste both sides again with annatto oil. Allow to rest for a few minutes.
At this point, you can also grill your Abbott’s Bakery sourdough slices in the same pan to soak up the flavours.
To assemble a single sandwich, take two pieces of grilled sourdough and spread a liberal amount of aioli on one side of each. Slice the grilled chicken into 1cm thick pieces and place on top of the aioli on one slice of bread. Top with as much or as little green papaya pickle as you’d like, then place the other piece of sourdough over the top. Repeat to make the second sandwich.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Abbott’s Bakery.