Chili Chicken

I’ve already mentioned how I like nicking recipes (or recipe ideas) off restaurant menus…especially when one of their dishes is a favorite and I want to be able to have it any time I please. I’ve also mentioned a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Boracay where we like to eat when we’re on-the-cheap.

The restaurant is Smoke and the dish is Chili Chicken…and finally, after some testing and tweaking, I’ve come up with a close enough version!

I have tried before but the results were never close enough to satisfy, so the last time we were in Boracay I made it a point to have it and dissect it a little bit more. You see, unlike the menus at swankier places, Smoke’s mimeographed take-out sheet does not have extravagant descriptions of their dishes…more’s the pity for recipe-filchers like me.

But I was not to be deterred! Savoring and examining each bite, I did not stop until I felt I had its secret.

And because I like you, I’ll share it…

Chili Chicken
(Thanks Smoke for the inspiration!)

  • 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons canola oil (or any vegetable oil with no strong flavor)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1-inch stub of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, lower portion only, finely chopped
  • 2 pieces sili labuyo (bird’s eye chili), cut in half (You can use other chilis as well, or vary the amount depending on how much heat you want. I cut them in half because it releases the heat just enough, and you can easily spot them in the dish so there are no “accidents”)
  • 2 tablespoons bagoong (shrimp paste)
  • 3 chicken breast fillets, pounded and cut into cubes
  • Sesame seeds

- Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok or kawali (or any old pan). Add the garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, and sili/chili and sauté until shallots soften.
- Add bagoong and sauté for a minute or so.
- Add chicken and fry until cooked through.
- Add sesame seeds, toss a few times, and take off the heat. (I didn’t do this part – next time!)
- Serves 2-3

I didn’t add sesame seeds because I didn’t have any. The original does and I will definitely be adding them the next time I make this. I think cilantro, although not in the original, would make an excellent garnish as well, chopped and sprinkled on top or even whole leaves stirred in at the end of cooking. This is delicious piled on top of steaming rice, just the way Smoke serves it.

I have no idea if this is anywhere near the restaurant’s actual recipe, but it tastes close enough for me. I think a big factor in getting the taste exactly the same would be the bagoong. Unless I find out what kind/brand they use (that will happen on another trip, don’t you worry) there will always be a slight difference in taste. Of course, the upside is that you can use your own favorite bagoong and it will taste even better! There is also the possibility that they don’t use bagoong at all and instead use some sort of small shrimp-fry thing. Hmmm…looks like a quest for another beach-trip! :)