Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Trippin' Sagada: Trying Out Pinikpikan

One of the most popular dish in the Cordillera Region is perhaps the Pinikpikan which is a chicken stew with a very flavorful taste. This is why we didn't miss the chance to taste it when we are in Sagada.

In a eatery near the municipal hall, we were looking for some late lunch and luckily, they are serving this dish and we immediately asked for an order of this dish.

Pinikpikan with Rice (PHP100)

Pinikpikan is made from a battered chicken which is cooked in a soup with etag for flavoring. This is usually prepared for a ritual whenever they need of advice regarding hunting or harvest. According to
The Ritual Preparation of the Pinikpikan
According to Nico Cawed, a member of the Bontoc tribe, he used to prepare Pinikpikan thrice a week for years.
This popular dish derives its flavor from the coagulated blood, the burned feathers and skin, plus the Etag, which is a cured meat, aged under-ground in earthen jars.
I have included his detailed and graphic description of this process in lieu of photos because of the extreme manner of preparing this native Cordillera dish.
Nico says, "Many Baguio visitors -- and even residents -- think that the Pinikpikan is merely a flavorful chicken dish. 
"In reality, its preparation is a ritual performed by Cordillera tribes to determine the appropriate courses of action and their fate. It takes hours of careful work to prepare an authentic Pinikpikan." 
"The chicken is 'battered' to keep the blood inside the chicken. If it is beaten properly, the chicken will not be bloody when it is cut. None of the bones should be broken during the beating or even the slicing." 
"The process of light beating or "pikpik" is where Pinikpikan gets its name."

They prepare it this way:
How to Prepare Pinikpikan
1. Select an appropriate live chicken and start a fire. In earlier times, the tribes would use a native chicken, smaller in variety with tastier, darker meat. In recent days, a broiler has become a perfectly acceptable substitute because it's much larger and serves more people.  
2. With a simple stick lightly beat the live chicken under both wings and in the neck until these areas turn dark blue with the bloood rising to just under the skin. Deliver the coup de grace by hitting the head hard with the stick. The eyeballs are checked for signs of life.
"It must be noted that when the Pinikpikan is served with vegetables, such as sayote, or flavored with ginger, then it becomes merely a version of the Philippine soup, Chicken Tinola or Tinolang Manok."
-- Nico Cawed (commenting on  commercialized versions of this dish  served in restaurants and eateries around Baguio City)
3. The pinions are then removed and the whole chicken is thrown into an open fire until all the feathers are burned off, making sure that the boots are properly singed so that they can be separated from the skin by hand.
4. The chicken is the then washed and cleaned to remove soot and dirt, then the claws, beak and crown are removed. The intestines are inverted and cleaned, while the gizzard is sliced open and cleaned. The intestines are then tied around the gizzard. All these will eventually be included in the soup. 
5. Then the ritual cutting up of the chicken begins. Remove the chicken head and set aside for cooking. Slice the skin to dislocate the thighs, then slice under the neck to remove the innards (stomach, intestines and gizzard). Guide the knife to slice under the shoulder blade to separate the rib cage from the chest. Remove the chest, leaving the rib cage intact with the internal organs (heart, liver, lungs). 
6. The tribal priest is then called to read the bile and liver. Calub is when the liver is covering the bile, and Cherwey is when the bile is completely visible, which is a sign of good luck. This then determines the tribe's course of action (i.e. hunting, planting, etc.). If the prognosis is Calub, the whole process is repeated, and other chickens cooked this way, until Cherwey is achieved. 
7. Then limbs are separated from body, and all edible chicken parts, including the head and innards, are thrown into a pot of water flavored with Etag or Itag and boiled. The singed feathers are also used to give the soup a smoked flavor.
8. The headman is served what is considered the best part, which is the whole center portion (ribs and innards). The rest of the chicken is served as a viand.

The taste is like no other dishes I have tasted. The meat has a smokey flavor and has a very distinct taste on it. It was quite tough but it was all good. The etag is also a very different taste. It is very salty at the same time, has a smokey flavor on it too. You can taste the burnt skin with the mix of the blood. I think this is what makes the flavor unique.

I cannot describe much on the taste. It is much better. You can have a taste of this here:

the canteen where we ate our Pinikpikan

It is a friendly place that serves good food. It is a simple canteen where they sell lunch and breads. We settled here since there are only a few places that serves lunch at that time.

wall painting in the canteen

the small canteen

You can also try out the Pinikpikan House down town. I am not sure how much they serve a dish there but I am sure they also serve this authentic dish.

When you're in Sagada, don't miss out on tasting this dish. You will surely have a great experience.

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