After going for a stint in the halls of Supreme Court this morning, I decided to try out the new Chicken Deli branch in SM North EDSA as my first subject of the “Search for the Authentic Bacolód Inasal Series”. This Chicken Deli branch is the first branch of the famous Bacolód Inasal branch in Metro Manila and I wanted to check how it was doing. I arrived past lunchtime but there was a steady stream of customers. For a famous Bacolód brand, it is all but obvious that a bulk of its customers would be from Negros. In fact, across me sat a group of Negrénse students from Ateneo. How I knew they were from Ateneo? They were boisterously talking about their classes in Ilonggo. I looked at the menu from afar and when I had my order in mind, I approached the counter to order.
Instead of stating my order, I asked the cashier first if she was from Bacolód. She said she wasn’t but she also said that she is the only non-Bacoleño among the staff of Chicken Deli. I gave her a smile and my order, pechopak with large 7’Up for drinks then I asked her another question: “Is the manager here?” She was a bit shocked and I think she thought that she was in big trouble. I just assured her that I would just inquire about reservations and franchising. With a sigh of relief, she told me that the manager is not around but the one in charge for reservations was around to answer my query. I got my number and took a seat. What I immediately noticed are these three familiar colorful bottles.
Every Bacoleño or Negrénse would recognize those immediately as sinamak (spiced vinegar), chicken oil and soy sauce. I requested that my set of sawsawan (dipping sauce) be given to me even as I wait for my order to be given. I set out to make my own sawsawan with two pieces of calamansi and katumbal (chili pepper) with a proportion of sinamak and soy sauce. The sawsawan I made looked like this.
After making my sawsawan, I took time to look at the people who are eating inside the restaurant. I saw a mix of rich and not so rich people, young and old, mostly from Negros as recognizable with the more pronounced sing-song accent while speaking Hiligaynon. While observing, I noticed that they were carrying a big jug which actually is full of rice. It reminded me that the pechopack I ordered for P99 actually entitles me to unlimited rice. I became elated knowing that I would need more than just one cup for my utterly hungry self. Not long after, my order arrive and what do you know, they included a sabaw (clear soup) for starters.
Do not expect an exquisite kind of soup though for it is just there to kickstart your tongue for what can be an exquisite inasal. Some people just take a sip and proceed to gobble their inasal immediately but I chose to be patient and finish my sabaw. Afterwards, I set out to do one last Bacoleño “ritual” in eating inasal, put some chicken oil on my rice. Yes, chicken oil is meant to be mixed with rice to give it an extra kick of flavor. If you missed out on chicken oil, it is that red-colored liquid placed in between sinamak and soy sauce. You might wonder why it is colored red, its because of atsuete seeds that serves as a natural reddening agent. I noticed that the Tagalog-speakers around me did not put chicken oil on their rice. Either they are on a diet or do not know what that red liquid is for in the first place. When a girl noticed me doing it, she did the same and exclaimed “So that is what it is for!” With the sawsawan ready, sabaw finished and chicken oil mixed well with my rice, I am now ready to eat! Bon appetit!
The chicken is a bit smaller than what is served in Bacolód but I do understand that chicken prices higher here in Metro Manila than is back home. My inasal was cooked well-done, not too dry but not too juicy either. It has a characteristic little charred areas but it fares well. I did not eat fast but savored each bite well, studying the flavor and consistency. Of all food from Bacolód, I missed inasal so much though it is the first thing I eat when arriving in the city from Bacolód – Silay International Airport. To my delight, it does taste like the inasal from their original street along Lacson St. beside the Association of Negros Producers Showroom. The only thing I noticed is that it is a bit dry than what is usually served in the main branch but I would understand that unlike in a stand-alone restaurant, a mall branch would require inasal to be readily available to serve but the taste is almost the same with a slight difference. Other food blogs do a 1 to 10 scale in measuring satisfaction but I would not do that here. What I want you to do is try Chicken Deli’s inasal yourself but in the question of authenticity, it is definitely authentic. In fact, what was left of my inasal were the bones that I cannot chew up.
Finally, after I finished my inasal like a hungry lion gobbling its prey, the OIC for Reservations entertained my inquiries. She’s a really pretty young lady who also is also from my native Bacolód City. I told her that I am also from Bacolód and that we can talk in Hiligaynon. Immediately, she gladly switched from her non-accented Tagalog to a sweet sing-song accent of Hiligaynon’s Bacoleño dialect. When I asked her about the food pack and reservations, she told me that they delivered lunch packs to a gathering of students from the Philippine Women’s University. I had a big smile and told her they might have chosen Chicken Deli because one of PWU’s owners is Cong. Albee Benitez, the Negros Occidental Third District Representative. She told me that they are about to open a branch in Tutuban late this year and three others by early next year. I lauded her for their store’s good sale even in only just a month of operation and that success would come of their way if they kept their quality. We arranged some details, exchanged numbers and thanked her for her time. I bid the staff as I leave for Batasan. Chicken Deli was indeed worth my time and try.
Chicken Deli North EDSA is located in the 3rd Floor Annex, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City, just a few minutes away from the MRT-3 North EDSA and LRT-3 Roosevelt Stations.