I couldn’t help but admire the chicken’s rich ruddy color. I fished out the drumsticks carefully, one by one, and laid them neatly on a platter lined with paper towels. The browned and blistered skin had pulled back, revealing the moist meat underneath. The fried chicken had a handsome hue of dark reddish brown. It was a beautiful color only a proper soak in soy sauce could give.
I grew up with fried chicken that isn’t the garden-variety golden-brown. It isn’t dipped in buttermilk and dredged in flour. It isn’t paired with potatoes, mashed or fried. Or with flaky biscuits and sweet corn on a cob, both brushed with butter. It isn’t perched atop a bed of waffles drenched in maple syrup. Although I must admit that those fried chicken and waffles when done right are ridiculously delicious.
I grew up with pritong manok [pree-tong mah-nohk] — prito is from frito, which means fried in Spanish, and manok is chicken in Filipino — best enjoyed with, you guessed right, a huge plate of rice and a sawsawan of sweet and spicy banana ketchup. Chicken is brined in a marinade of soy sauce and calamansi, which Filipinos fondly call toyomansi, a play on the words toyo [toh-yò], which is soy sauce, and calamansi, the local lime. The soy sauce gives the chicken its distinct deep caramel color when deep fried.
The kitchen smelled wonderfully of soy and citrus. The delightful aroma of my mom’s fried chicken I am so enamored of filled the house. While the last batch of drumsticks hissed in the hot wok, I picked up a piece and indulged myself. One piece before dinner just like when I was little and I always noshed on a drumstick while my mom finished making dinner. I ripped off a big bite and licked my sticky fingers clean. Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life, the wise Minny Jackson once said.
It is true. So very true.
Toyomansi Fried Chicken
2 pounds chicken legs and thighs, about 6 to 8 pieces
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil for frying
Marinade chicken in soy sauce, calamansi, garlic, and freshly ground pepper and refrigerate overnight.
Before frying the chicken let it rest at room temperature for over an hour. Fill a wok or a pot with at least 2 inches deep of oil and heat the oil. Deep fry chicken in small batches until cooked through and nicely browned. Fish out with a strainer and place on a platter lined with paper towels.
Last week, the Diner’s Journal of the New York Times mentioned Jun-blog. Yes, you heard right, the New York Times! It was a delightful surprise. “The photographer Jun Belen is working his way through a stunning alphabet of Filipino food. He started with Achuete Oil a year ago, breezed past Calamansi Sorbet and Pork Belly Binagoongan; now he’s up to Sawsawan.” Thank you Julia Moskin. And thank you to all of you, my dear friends, for following Jun-blog. For trying out the recipes and for sharing them with your family and friends. I cannot thank you enough for all the support.