The Facebook Group “You Know You’re From Bacólod, Philippines If” or simply known as Virtual Bacólod was abuzz in activity when a professional ophthalmologist who owns one of the biggest optical clinics in the country posted his distate against a fastfood chain selling roasted chicken branded as “Inasal”. You know how doctors can be, they are specific with their food but how much more if that doctor is a Negrénse. This doctor provided reasons why this fastfood chain’s version of inasal is not the real inasal. He said that the way the chicken is sliced is entirely wrong, in exact wordings “looks like a chicken that was run over by a grader truck”. The taste according to him is entirely wrong since inasal should not be sweet but have a distinctive taste the Japanese call “umami” which is a result of the marinade’s blend, added with the taste taken from actual char-grilling. The result of this char-grilling is the characteristic crispy skin which is absent in the said fastfood chicken which is actually disturbingly gummy and soggy. I have to agree with him since I have been eating many versions of inasal in Bacólod and this fastfood chain indeed deviated too much.
This begs the question, what is the authentic Chicken Inasal? Specifically, what is the authentic Bacólod Chicken Inasal? This brings me back to a poll made a few months ago in the same thread with which Inasal Restaurant in Bacólod has the best-tasting Chicken Inasal? The results brought us to Chicken House which garnered the highest votes together with an equally famous Aida’s and Nena’s, both situated in the city’s Manokan Country. According to The Authentic Inasal which was set up to house the Bacoleño judgement on the matter states that the very first Chicken Inasal meal was served by Elisa Garrucho’s Chicken Queen which was later on passed to the present-day Chicken House. Though that claim in itself is disputed, it is a known fact that Chicken Inasal has been with Bacólod City longe before our parents were even born. A Virtual Bacolod member once reminisced of eating chicken inasal in his childhood in al fresco manner in streets closed in the evening to serve Chicken Inasal in the 1960’s. Indeed, long before anyone thought of setting up a formal restaurant for this iconic dish, Bacoleños have been enjoying Chicken Inasal.
This is safe to assume that Chicken Inasal was after all an everyday proletarian food item long before it was commercialized. Street Inasal can still be savored in Cuadra Street, though the street looks clear on daytime but at nightime, streetside inasalans set up shop to grill their Chicken Inasal selection. You might question the sanitation since its a street setting but I tell you, I once dared myself eating there and it was really good. This place is what some people call “Kilid State Inasalan” since it is quite near what used to be the State Theater. According to that same gentleman from Virtual Bacólod, this Inasalan was known for its characteristic ginger added to their marinate which gives it a distinctive flavor. Meanwhile, he also mentioned of the Inasalan near the Old City Hall which uses langkawas, a relative of ginger, which has a fragrant scent. Not being familiar with langkawas, I asked Glady Tomulto of ExperienceNegros.com of what it is. Her answer reminded me of my grandmother’s plant which I thought was ginger by which the flower itself alreday gave that ginger-like smell. On the other hand, the inasalans near the public market in the Shopping Center has the spiciest of all Inasal in Bacólod. He even quipped that Inasal before was better since they made use of the best and choicest ingredients like high-quality coconut vinger from the liquor tuba. Indeed, this small commotion made me learn a lot about Bacolod Inasal from those who came into the world before I did.
As these things conspire, there is now a growing movement calling on the City Council of Bacólod City to pass an ordinance or a resolution declaring Chicken Inasal as the city’s Food Heritage in order to safeguard it against imitations. The movement is picking up force and with the City Councilors being part of the Virtual Bacólod page, this will be very much likely. If the ordinance is passed, this would be a landmark in Philippine culinary scene since there is no other LGU that passed a similar ordinance that protected a local cuisine. Aside from the lobbied ordinance, the group is also seeking for Bacólod to establish a Food Heritage Committee which would screen foods served in Bacólod and certify which local cuisine is a Bacólod original. This concept borrows from European Union’s Appelation Law and its adjunct institution, the Protected Designation of Origin. Once this is passed as well in the City Council, it will be the Philippine’s first as well. Philippines has been loose in trademarking local products but the move by Bacoleños to safeguard the city’s food heritage will influence others to do the same.
Negros Blogger Lloyd Tronco and yours truly will be starting a project to scour Manila’s Restaurants to search for the authentic or close to authentic Chicken Inasal. We will be drafting a checklist in grading each restaurants “Inasal-branded” chicken which we will be certifying for authenticity. In the upcoming meetings of Bacóleños in Manila, this will be one of the matters that will be discussed. I have started a series in my blog entitled “Search for the Authentic Inasal in Manila” which will continue once we have drafted the checklist. Meanwhile, the best time of the year to savor Chicken Inasal in Bacólod is during the Masskara Festival when local Inasalans set-up booths along the City Plaza. However, looking for Chicken Inasal is not hard since every corner of the street, there are streetside vendors that grill their Inasal. May it be Chicken House, Aida’s, Nena’s or your ordinary streetside stalls, Chicken Inasal has truly been ingrained to Bacólod’s food culture and has since been transported from the streets to your comfortable restaurants where rich can share in this food heritage that is uniquely FB, from Bacólod.