If you had a chance will you try this traditional way of cooking chicken? Pinikpikan is a Filipino dish originating from the Igorot tribes of the Cordillera region where chicken is prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick prior to cooking.
Foie Gras, Birds Nest Soup, Sharks fin and Asocena, yup these are foods that are now illegal in a several parts of the world as it promotes animal cruelty and our dish for today can be classified as one of those, but trust me there were no animals that were brutally harmed in making this dish below. I am recreating a modern take on a very traditional tribal dish in the Philippines to share an alternative way to cook this wonderful dish to those who want to try them in the most ethical manner.
Now what is pinikpikan? From the root word “pikpik” which means to beat lightly, and this is the process where the dish is prepared, beating a live chicken but before we go to that process, let us understand where this all came from. This whole process is on old ritual process for tribes facing a difficult decision. In the ritual, the spirits and the ancestors are invoked to help grant what is being asked for. Prior to cooking, the live chicken is hung by its feet, it is then beaten with a small stick throughout the whole body without breaking the skin or bones. This process bruises the chicken giving the skin a different texture and flavour which pinikpikan is famous for. Once the “pikpik” process is completed a single hard blow to the back of its head or neck is used to end its life. The chicken is then put on top of open flames to burn off the feathers and this process gives it a very smoky flavour; any excess feathers are removed by hand. Once the chicken is dressed, the chicken is opened as a ritual process where an Igorot elder examines the bile as these are believed to give a sign on what was asked during this ritual process.
I had my first-hand experience on eating this dish, I studied in Baguio for my first two years in the university and this ritual is quite common there. It is usually prepared in two ways first the traditional way like I explained above and the commercial way where no Igorot elders are involved but they process is merely followed due to the resulting texture and flavour of the beating and burning. It was my Igorot classmate who did let us experience it but since he was not an elder there were no rituals involved.
Today we will make this at home but we won’t be beating any chicken, what we will do though is to follow the other steps apart from the beating and cook it with usual ingredients it is usually cooked with. The only difficulty was to find an etag, a type of traditional Igorot thick fatty pork jerky that is salted and smoked, think of it as a sundried smoked thick cut bacon. This ingredient I replaced it with a salted and smoked meat called “speck” and it nearly tastes like etag, almost similar process less the maggots, but the light moulds gives it that funky taste similar to what you get with etag.
Prepare a hooded charcoal grill, light up your charcoal on one side and not the whole grilling area.
Cut your chicken in half, season it with salt. Place chicken, skin side up on the hooded grill on the side without the heat, cover the grill then let it absorb the smoke for 15 minutes. Open the hood, bring back your charcoal to amber once it is very hot grill chicken on both sides until it is charred. Remove chicken from the grill then set it aside.
Once chicken has cooled down, chop chicken into pieces.
In a pot add oil then sauté celery, ginger, onion and garlic.
Add chicken pieces, rice wine and etag, then pour enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil then simmer in medium low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken meat is nearly tender.
Add the chayote then simmer for 8 more minutes.
Add the bok choy or shanghai then simmer for 2 more minutes.
Wow, the story behind this dish is so disturbing… I wonder if you couldn’t beat the chicken *after* it was killed? Anyway, the recipe actually sounds very tasty and I happen to have a chayote in the house at the moment… I may give this a try!
The difference is that when you beat the chicken while its alive it wil bruise, clotting the blood and permeating into the skin, that adds a bit of texture. When chicken is beaten when its already dressed, the bruising does not happen. It is cruel, its even worse if you saw it happen. Probably most of us wont understand the belief around it, it is their tradition.
The original recipe sounds quite cruel to me, I prefer your charcoal grilled chicken version. It turned out really nice, esp. that charred skin. Absolutely irresistible!
And the smokiness that adds character to the dish.
Truly fascinating about the ritual — and I am truly curious as to what the elders might see in the bile. No different than reading tea leaves, I suppose (though the latter is significantly less violent).
Am always fascinated in food rituals like this. Luckily there are modern ways to prepare foods which involves similar processes, while it wont be ever the same as the original, there would be less controversy as well.
Ugh! The backstory is definitely disturbing. The dish itself, though — at least the way you make it — sounds interesting. Fascinating post — thanks.
Interesting tradition behind this dish. The soup looks like to die for!
This looks like a very tasty recipe, I will definitely try it once.
What a fascinating recipe! Thanks for sharing the history behind it
Food rituals truly are fascinating. I must say that the story behind this one is quite disturbing, though. I’m glad to hear that it is mostly fading away. Between the beating of the chicken and the etag with maggots and mold, I’m pretty sure I’d stay away from the original version of this one. But your version? Sounds quite tasty – I love smoky foods!
Wow that’s a cruel method. But I’ve heard some other countries / cultures have or used to have a similar idea: to scare out a bird or animal (like chasing etc.) before slaughtering. If I’m not mistaken that concept was something about released adrenaline that affects the texture of meat.
Either way, cruel and unethical. I’m glad you’ve opted for a harmless way, and this dish looks tasty!