Kitchen Adventures: Pininyahang Manok (Chicken stewed in pineapple and coconut milk)
Posted on 18 July 2014
I’ve always, always loved pineapple. The highlight of my hungry teenage days would be to come home and find pre-sliced pineapple in the fridge; I’d eat it by the bowlful. In fact, my *Dad would buy two or three pineapples, cut them up and just stash them in the fridge for me. I ate those babies until my tongue burned. My go-to pizza toppings are pineapple and bacon, pineapple juice is beautiful, and man oh man, mango-pineapple smoothies are the nectar of the gods.
That being said, I had never really cooked with pineapple before. I don’t do much cooking because I don’t feel confident in my skills, which, as you can probably see coming a mile off, perpetuated the cycle. In fact, I had a little talk with my younger brother (a notoriously picky eater) about this and he gave me a rueful smile then patted me on the head, “This is why you practice.”
I made a resolution to try and bring lunch/dinner to work as often as I can because if I don’t, I’ll keep buying fish and chips at Fresco’s as often as I possibly can. In line with that resolution is the fact that I would need to make my own food! I popped down to the grocery store with Mikaius, and while we were looking around, I saw crushed pineapple for $.99. Score! I immediately pulled up a recipe for pininyahang manok and grabbed everything else that I would need.
Coconut milk. Crushed pineapple. Carrot, orange pepper, onion, tomato, garlic, patis, salt, boneless chicken cut up into bite-sized chunks. These, my friends, are the makings of a beautiful meal, and one that I have great memories of. Pininyahang manok, or chicken stewed in pineapple and coconut milk, is one of my absolute favourite Filipino dishes!
Before I started, I poured out the pineapple juice into a bowl and marinated the chicken in it. I would not have thought of doing it that way, but since the recipe called for it and I knew nothing about making this most beloved dish, I followed instructions. Man, was I glad I did.
The magic trifecta of Filipino cooking is a base of sautéed garlic, onion, and tomatoes. It releases flavours that are so distinctly Filipino. I was taught to cook the onion first, and when it’s almost transparent, drop in the garlic. Tomatoes went last. When I browned the chicken in this mixture, my tiny apartment smelled heavenly.
When the chicken was almost done, I poured in the pineapple juice that I had used to marinate the chicken, along with about a third of the can of coconut milk. I was eyeballing things at this point, because while I was indeed following the recipe, I wasn’t using the exact amount of chicken and ingredients. I was cooking for practice, not for family, so all of my ingredients were prepped according to what I felt would make the most sense. It made me feel like some kind of super chef!
I left the chicken to simmer in the pineapple juice and coconut milk for about 15 minutes, then I put in a fourth of the can of crushed pineapple. I know that people usually use pineapple chunks in this particular recipe, but my younger brother isn’t a fan of pineapple. If I was going to get him to try this, the pineapple had to be in the flavour, and not in what he sees as dessert-sized chunks. Crushed pineapple was my best bet.
I added the carrots and bell pepper last, when the stew was almost done. How did it taste?
It was beautiful. I felt so good about this dish, because the aroma and the flavour was so wonderfully reminiscent of home. And my brother approved – which, to me, is the ultimate test of whether a dish is good or not. If I can please my picky younger brother, I can do anything!