Thanks to the entrepreneurial savvy of the Ilonggos, the lowly Chicken Inasal(grilled chicken on a bamboo skewer) has crossed borders from the sugar frontier to the Philippine metropolis. Like the legendary La paz Batchoy, it has inched it's way to carve a niche in the national palate. You can see Manokans(grilled chicken eateries) sprouting even in the air conditioned chi-chi malls; most of whom claim to be the orig.
Let's talk about the orig. There is only one yardstick as far as I am concerned-- the chicken itself. Use a different chicken and you get a different flavor. It should be native chicken.
An authentic Bacolod / Ilonggo Inasal(chicken in bamboo skewers) should be a Darag. Darags are native Visayan free range, drug and growth hormone-free chicken that are skinnier and definitely tougher to the mandible than the plump commercial variety. If a barbecued Darag is displayed with the commercial ones, you wouldn't even want to buy it. Give it a quick look and you think it's more bone than meat. It costs more too. But then if you value superior flavor over quantity, you would know what to grab. Man, I tell you, the flavor is worth the heavy chew.
I have a suki (a favorite vendor) back home who is a master in grilling the Darag. He is more of the ambulant type who would set up shop in changing locations on different days. You will find him on weekends setting up outside the cockpit. No, he is not grilling the fallen winged gladiators. What he has is a trisikad( a BMX bike with a side car) which carries his grilling equipment-- a rickety table, a small charcoal grill, a trimmed banana trunk where he sticks the bamboo skewers holding the cut chickens and a basket where he stores the chickens and small implements.
I patronized him because I was drawn to his natural grasp of the concept of using fresh ingredients in his small grilling business. He would buy the native chickens in the morning and would start killing and dressing them only a few hours before he starts grilling so the chickens doesn't have to chill in the fridge. Native chicken looses flavor when chilled overnight.
For the marinade, he would use native cane, palm or tuba vinegar and coarse salt.That's it. While the chicken is grilling he would brush it with achuete oil. No other spices or secret mixes. In the end, what you get is real flavorful of the bird meat.
I made my own version of Chicken Inasal days ago. I knew it was a far cry from that of my suki. For one, I only have commercial grade chicken to grill. Second, I didn't have real achuete seed for the oil. I used Mama Sita's powdered version. For the marinade, I made do with apple cider vinegar and key limes. I added garlic,black pepper corns and brown sugar to the mix to bosst the flavors. Lastly,I didn't have bamboo skewers. I "grilled" the bird inside the oven instead. I didn't get that important smoky charcoal aroma. Well, it wasn't that bad if only for the memory of eating a native one. I made some garlic rice drizzled with the extra achuete oil to go with it. If there was a revelation, the inasal tasted well with grape tomatoes eaten in the raw.