Kitchen Adventures: Pininyahang Manok (Chicken stewed in pineapple and coconut milk)

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.

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The raw chicken cooking in the base of garlic, onion, and tomato.

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?

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Pininyahang manok! The memories are making me drool.

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!

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