I was getting worried we hadn’t spotted my mom. The plane landed over an hour ago and the crowd of well wishers waiting at the gate had started to slip away. It was my mom’s first transpacific flight all by herself and I was nervous that she would get lost or she would have a difficult time going through Immigration. I knew I was too foolish to worry. How could she get lost? We put her on a direct flight from Manila to San Francisco so she wouldn’t have to deal with the confusing connections in Seoul or Narita but, for some reason, stubborn what ifs cluttered my mind.

I was worried, too, about Dennis and my mom. Would they get along? They met two years before when my mom and my sister visited and Dennis tagged along as I toured them around the city. My mom only had generous words for him and I was so touched when he gave her a small parting gift — a Swarovski snowflake crystal. Take a look at this snowflake and remember how cold it is here in San Francisco when it gets so hot in Manila, Dennis told her before we said our goodbyes. But Dennis and I didn’t live together back then. My mom would be spending a lot of time with him in our apartment since he worked from home. I was too anxious that they would drive each other crazy.

But, once again, all my worries proved pointless. Before long, a kind Filipino gentleman ushered my mom out of the gate in a wheelchair, which my sisters arranged so she wouldn’t have to take the long walk from the plane through Immigration and baggage claim. Old folks in wheelchairs were the first ones to board but were the last ones to deplane, she told us. She raved about how helpful the people were and how friendly the Officer was at the Immigration desk. She was so happy to see us both and so happy that she made the very long trip to California in one piece.

My mom and Dennis (and Stanford, too) got along exceptionally well. We cooked and we ate. We ate a lot. We shopped a lot. We walked around the city. We drove along the coast. We visited the vineyards and the mountains. It was a lovely visit.

This weekend, my mom’s taking the same flight from Manila to San Francisco to spend the next several weeks with us. I must admit that I’m harboring the same worries I had the last time she was here. I know, I worry about everything. It’s what I do. But I am more excited than I am worried this time around. Excited to spend more time with her to catch up on things. Excited to have her try my coconut jam, my rice cakes, my caldereta and drop biscuits, and my chicken afritada. The very first thing my mom made the morning after she flew in the last time she visited was chicken afritada. With barely a few hours of sleep and a suitcase filled with pasalubong still unpacked, she ravaged through my pantry and made chicken afritada. Chicken braised in rich tomato and fish sauce, ladled over steamed rice never tasted so good.


Chicken Afritada Recipe, makes six servings

2 pounds bone-in chicken legs and thighs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, sliced into eight pieces
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 bay leaves
15 marble or fingerling potatoes, roasted
1 small red bell pepper, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stainless pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate as they finish browning.

Saute garlic and onions until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Place the chicken back in the pot or pan. Add chicken stock, tomato sauce, fish sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then transfer the pot or pan to the oven. Braise the chicken until they are cooked through, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Baste the chicken with the sauce every now and then while it is braising.  In the last ten minutes, add the roasted potatoes and red bell pepper. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cooking Notes:

1. I like using marble or fingerling potatoes. They are the perfect bite-size. Roast them with oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees F until they are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. When using large potatoes like large Yukon Gold, have them quartered into bite-size pieces.

2. Browning and baking the chicken in a pot or pan uncovered gives it a nice color. Chicken afritada can also be cooked on the stove over medium to low heat.

3. Pork like pork loin or pork butt can be used instead of chicken to make afritada.


Chicken Afritada

  • Melaniof

    looks good.

  • Samantha FoodGeek

    Love the color on the chicken! My parents ‘s version always had soy sauce rather than fish sauce. I’ll have to try it this way. Thanks for the recipe. Enjoy your visit with your mom!

  • http://www.asianinamericamag.com ElizabethQ @asianinamericamag

    Jun, what a sweet story about your Mom and your family ! And this Afritada recipe makes me just drool! I feel like running back to the kitch and making it, too. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us!

  • http://thislittlepiggywenttothemarket.blogspot.com/ Lala

    sigh. that was the one word in my mind as i read this post. i’m very excited for you!

    je t’embrasse,


  • Jeannie

    That looks good! I would love to try it one of these days…my maid used to cook one Filipino pork dish for my family and it tasted so delicious but unfortunately I didn’t get the recipe from her before she left:(

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Jeannie. You can substitute the chicken with pork and make pork afritada.

  • Jean (Lemons and Anchovies)

    Jun, this is one of my favorite dishes and yours looks perfect. Why wouldn’t it, though. Sounds like you’ve had the best teacher. :-) I’m so excited for you that you’ll have a few weeks to spend with your mom. I’m smiling as I imagine all the dishes you plan to make for her. So sweet. :-) Safe travels to your mom!

  • Brooke @shutterboo

    You’re going to have a wonderful time with your mom!  I hope she has a safe flight and that the four of you (I’m include Mr. Stanford) go on new adventures! :)

  • Adora’s Box

     Hope your Mum has a wonderful holiday with you. Our mother’s cooking always taste fantastic because it connects to a lot of good memories, dont you think? That afritada looks fantastic, especially with rice and patis.

  • http://twitter.com/LickMySpoon Stephanie Hua

     mmm love that this is a one skillet meal!  i’ve never done fish sauce with chicken like this before but i can totally imagine the play of flavors here…can’t wait to try this.  have a wonderful time with your mom!  

  • http://psychosomaticaddictinsane.wordpress.com/ iya

    havent tried making afritada with roasted potatoes. hmm… :)

    sarap ng afritada with pandan rice tapos ang panghimagas ay malamig na hinog na manggang kalabaw.  

  • http://www.linglieats.com Ling

     I was sold when I saw in your profile your love for corgis

    Love the recipe – not enough publicity for filipino food out there!

  • Minmae4

    I’ve tried so many other chicken afritada recipes and this by far is my favorite! I used regular potatoes and mixed it in the pot when I put it in the oven but some of them were undercooked so now I know why you roast them first. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I hope you blog some more yummy Filipino dishes.

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  • julianvalente

    I’m interested to try this with fish sauce too!  I’ve always used Filipino soy sauce.
    Another version I’ve tried is adding sweet potato (not the American orange yam, but kamote) in together with potatoes. 

  • ilovecheapcalls

    loved your shots.  Chicken Afritada never looked MORE delicious. :)

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  • Yumyum

    Hey what if I want to use chicken breasts without skin? Will that still work? For some people who don’t like chicken that looks like chicken and so on…. although I think it’s much tastier to cook it with the skin and on the bone, I just wonder if I used chicken breasts on their own, will they turn into rubber?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing.  You can use skinless and boneless chicken breasts but be careful not to overcook the meat.  Like you said, the chicken will turn tough and rubbery if overcooked.  Mark Bittman wrote a great piece about chicken breasts in the New York Times.  http://goo.gl/l5fn6

  • http://astrologymonami.com/ Perianne

    What is the Tomato Sauce? I assume you mean a tin of chopped tomatoes. Is this so? In Australia we don’t have tomato sauce in cans. We have tomato sauce in bottles like ketchup but I am assuming you don’t mean this.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Here in the United States, “tomato sauce” refers to a tomato puree with salt, herbs and spices. You can use the can of chopped tomatoes you mentioned but I would puree it until smooth.  Season the stew with fish sauce, which are readily available in Asian stores. 

  • http://astrologymonami.com/ Perianne

    Thank you for your quick reply. We have concentrated puree. I will use the can of tomatoes blended and a tablespoon of puree with some herbs like oregano. We have fish sauce. Yum Yum. Chicken Afritada for dinner. I am already getting hungry and it is only 3pm here.

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  • Solange Belém

    Esse blog é…simplesmente…Ma-ra-vi-lho-so !!!!! :-)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Obrigado! Thank you!

  • Francesca

    Hi I live in Ireland, and we have tomato passata. Is that the same as tomato sauce?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    It’s not exactly tomato sauce but you can use tomato passata instead.

  • Francesca

    Hi, this is the third recipe I’ve tried from your site. (The bistek and arroz caldo were fabulous!) I was able to find tomato sauce at an asian grocery store here; the brand was Mama Sita. I followed the recipe exactly, but it came out a bit bland – any suggestions?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Francesca, for writing. I’m happy to hear you have an Asian store in Ireland! Don’t be afraid to season with salt. I salt the chicken generously before I brown them and I also season the potatoes with salt when I roast them. One tablespoon of fish sauce is plenty but if you want you can add more. When the chicken is cooked through taste the sauce and if you think it’s still needs a little more salt then add some more.