Chicken Sarap does Bacolod fare in their own special way.
The Legardes hail from Silay City, Negros Occidental. Dubbed the “Paris of Negros,” Silay is known for its rich heritage and well-preserved ancestral houses. It is where many old families hail from, and where many bygone culinary traditions are kept alive.
When visiting Silay, one is mesmerized by the many stalls and eateries that claim the authenticity of their chicken inasal, hailing theirs as the best and the original. To each maker, his or her own inasal.
Art Legarde, the creator of the marinade for Chicken Sarap, is neither a chef nor even a weekend cook. His claim to culinary fame is that his father and mother-in-law were known to have been good in the kitchen.
Art, though, loves to eat, and has a penchant for dining alfresco. He loves to go on picnics—and inasal na manok was always part of the menu.
When Art and his wife Lucille moved to Manila to be with their children, he craved the taste of home. So his journey began. He started to concoct his own inasal marinade.
The standard that Art was after is the way the Negrenses enjoy their inasal—that is, the right balance between tangy, a tad sweet and laced with hints of lemongrass.
It must be the right combination of ingredients, in perfect measure, so when the meat is put on the grill, it is transformed—so just like that, the humble chicken becomes a culinary delight.
What sets Chicken Sarap apart is what Art refers to as the “Chicken Sarap experience,” that he describes as the “special combination of the marinade, fresh chicken, a hot charcoal grill and that smoky eye-watering haze while one watches the chicken being grilled.”
Since 2011, their “grill-on-sight cooking strategy” has earned them a band of loyal clients, a niche market comprised of inasal aficionados.
Offering just inasal, Art felt, wasn’t enough. He, along with his family, recreated the gustatory delights of Bacolod by reinventing traditional dishes such as fresh lumpia, batchoy, kansi and KBL (kadyos, baboy and langka).
I have tried many inasal, but the one that I had from Chicken Sarap is distinct and one of the best. It is tasty to the bone, with a delectable complexity to its flavor.
Eaten with all the condiments—chicken oil drizzled all over their special rice with toasted garlic bits, and kalkag (dried baby shrimp)—makes the Chicken Sarap experience one of a kind.
Their batchoy is a complete meal by itself. It is an overload of every single ingredient, from noodles to liver, spring onions to fried garlic. It’s a double portion of sahog on pristine batchoy broth.
Art does not claim his dishes to be the original nor the best. He simply cooks with ingredients from his hometown, his flavors brought forth and guided by tastes drawn from memories of his youth.
Since the pandemic, Chicken Sarap has been accepting orders for delivery. (Tel. 0998-5770361, @chickensarap on Instagram)
‘Puto at laksa’
Ammy Prieto is a certified Pasigueña and a general’s wife whose passion is to cook for her family.
She specializes in Pasig fare, and her advocacy is to recreate old Pasig delicacies like the puto, also known as the puto alog or puto bata and laksa.
The puto that Prieto makes is unlike the puto we’re familiar with. Hers is like the inutak (but it wiggles more, thus the name puto alog), though a little softer and all white.
Meanwhile, laksa is a vegetable dish made with long beans, eggplant and banana hearts. It is cooked with coconut milk and bagoong, and garnished with chicharon.
The delicacies are eaten together. To serve, the laksa is spooned over the puto.
To this day, she recounted, the oldies of Pasig still crave and get excited whenever they hear that someone prepared puto at laksa.
She started Prieto’s Kitchen in 2016. Inspired by the palitaw balls she encountered, she used to purchase them two towns away from home, just to resell.
She later ventured into the kitchen to make her own palitaw balls, coloring them in pastel shades and stuffing each one with a yema filling. It is sprinkled with a mix of sesame seeds and sugar before serving.
Prieto also makes a delicious hibok hibok—glutinous rice with monggo filling, cooked in sweetened coconut milk.
She later became the official caterer of the White House in Camp Crame during the tenure of Gen. Ronald dela Rosa and Gen. Archie Gamboa. During her stint, she prepared her special home-cooked dishes that were once enjoyed only by her family. These same dishes are now available on a preorder basis. (@prietoskitchen on Instagram)
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