An Impromptu Lunch By The Beach

By BobbyRica | January 26, 2011

roasted chicken

If you have been reading BobbyRica, you may have already guessed that I enjoy my food as much my women. But being here in the Philippines had been a trying one. I may have eaten all sorts of weird stuff but food items like balut really challenged me. And having been on the beaches during my remaining weeks here had been anything but boring.

Take for example the simple roasted chicken. Everyone has seen and tasted it. You’d never think twice about how it’s prepared. But there’s one way of preparing chicken here that absolutely amazed me. Chicken takes some time to cook as you may already know. However, some locals have figured out an astonishingly simple preparation that’s not only quick it’s easy. Sorry to sound like a appliance salesman, but as I write this, I am still surprised how good it is!

During my stay in the beaches of Baler, I met this local guy, Eddie, who was our tour guide. When Eddie offered to cook us lunch, I thought he’d steer us to some neighborhood eatery with a jacked up menu. But his sincerity and laid back demeanor somehow warmed us over and we agreed. Instead of some noisy and crowded restaurant, he led us into the less populated area of the beach. A woman who he introduced us as his wife waited for us there. She was cutting down a long bamboo log while a small bonfire was coming to life.

A few yards away, I noticed a big mound of dried grass and a huge vegetable oil can that’s three feet high. She smiled at us before hacking away at the bamboo into smaller cylinders. A small tinge of concern came over me. He really did ask us to have lunch with him, and not be lunch, right? Akasha only smiled sheepishly as he looked on.

Eddie motioned us to sit down the sand as he took out two chicken carcasses from his wife’s shopping bag. “These are native Filipino chicken…very tasty!” he smiled proudly as if he caught the bird himself (which turns out to be true). He began to take out the offal and threw them into the ocean. Like an expert masseur, he began massaging the chicken with soy sauce with a bit of salt and black pepper.

As we waited for the meal, his wife took out a slender bottle filled with milky fluid from the shopping bag and an old shot glass. She poured the liquid into the small container and handed it to me. “Drink, good for you,” she beckoned. I smiled stupidly as I gingerly took the glass and smelled the liquid. It had a sweet and fruity smell. I looked at Akasha as I drank it in one go. The liquid rolled smoothly from my mouth to my throat. As I inquired what it was, she told me that she gave us the local moonshine called “lambanog” (fermented juice from the sugar cane plant). It was quite pleasant and relaxing, though it tasted like sweetened vinegar.

Meanwhile, Eddie had skewered the chickens on a thick tree branch. But instead of laying them on the fire, he stuck the skewered chickens upright into the sand. He grabbed the can and covered the chickens. He later began laying the can with lots and lots of straw and dried leaves. I wondered how this was going to work. Will he also be burying the entire thing with sand too?

As we watched in amazement, Eddie took out a burning branch from the bonfire and lit the straw. Since we were under the noontime sun, the straw pile was soon in a blaze. It took roughly five minutes before the straw burned out and became ash. Eddie waited for a few seconds before the flame subsided. He then carefully took out the can and lo and behold, we saw two perfectly roasted chicken!

After Eddie’s wife steamed the rice in the bonfire on bamboo, we were ready to eat. I checked if the meat was still raw and to my surprise, it was cooked to the bone! It was also quite tasty and moist! To think Eddie only seasoned the chicken with soy sauce, salt and pepper! I kept nodding approvingly as we began to eat the chicken. There was a hint of pleasant grassiness that somehow complimented the smoky flavor of the chicken. Akasha was licking his fingers every time. Eddie and wife beamed with delight as they ate with us.

After we all cleaned up, Eddie and his wife bid us farewell. I was about to hand them more money for the meal, but he refused. He told me the money we paid him as a tour guide was enough. But before I was about to protest, he give me the remaining bottle of lambanog and walked away.

As we finished off the remaining drop of lambanog, Akasha pointed to two unoccupied hammocks conveniently placed a few yards from us. With food in our bellies and the tropical sun bearing down on us, it didn’t take much prodding for us to take a siesta. Life is good!

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