Tomato-based stews are a dime a dozen in Philippine cuisine. It’s even become an internet meme that they’re simply variations of the same dish. Mechado, menudo, caldereta, and chicken afritada – the only difference? The protein, plus a few other elements. This article sheds light on the last dish – what sets it apart and its surprising, supposed origins.
What Is Chicken Afritada?
A classic tomato sauce-based ulam, chicken afritada was brought over to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial times. The word “afritada” stems from the Spanish term “fritada” or “fried,” referring to a pan-frying cooking technique the Spaniards taught Filipinos.
A traditional Filipino chicken afritada recipe has a few ingredients:
- Aromatics – garlic and onions
- Vegetables – carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, and green peas
- Seasonings – salt, pepper, and Knorr Chicken Cubes
- Condiments – tomato sauce and soy sauce or patis
- Proteins – chicken or pork (occasionally)
How to cook chicken afritada
Pan-frying the chicken afritada ingredients is the first step in cooking this dish. Most cooks start by lightly browning chicken in a pan. Set the chicken aside and use the same pan for cooking the veggies. Transfer the veg and sauté garlic and onions. Add the meat and a splash of Knorr Liquid Seasoning.
At this point, cooks can add the tomato sauce to simmer the protein until it is tender. Because the dish generally uses chicken, cook time is quicker, making it a go-to recipe on busy days. Add veggies last to prevent them from becoming soft and mushy.
If you’re familiar with Spanish cuisine, you might notice that chicken afritada features many similarities to a stew called pollo al chilindron. Many believe this saucy dish is the inspiration behind the beloved local ulam.
What Is Pollo al Chilindron?
Chilindron is a Spanish stew with flavors emanating from roasted peppers, onions, and paprika. Some pollo al chilindron recipes also use rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and wine. Although chicken is a popular ingredient, other options are lamb, rabbit, beef, venison, antelope, pork, and wild boar. Instead of potatoes in the actual dish à la afritada, chilindron puts mashed taters on the side.
There’s no accurate way to confirm if chilindron served as the archetype for afritada. However, you can use the Spanish dish as inspiration if you want to upgrade your chicken afritada recipe.
Ways to Upgrade Classic Chicken Afritada
Chicken afritada is anything but boring. If you want to level up the flavor of the stew, try adding these chilindron ingredients.
Red or white wine
Infuse flavor and add moisture to any meat when you use wine as a braising liquid.
Some Pinoy afritada recipes contain hot dogs. Replace them with deli-cured meats like prosciutto, chorizo, or Spanish jamón serrano.
Herbs and spices
Local cuisine uses minimal spices like salt, pepper, and the occasional oregano. Boost the flavor of afritada by adapting chilindron's paprika for some smoky heat. Go for saffron if you prefer a mildly sweet, floral, and earthy taste. On the other hand, a sprig of rosemary gives the stew an aromatic and woodsy taste.
Liven up tomato chicken stew with the briny, tangy, and mildly sweet touch of olives. Feel free to pick any type of pitted olive to add to the dish.
Anchovies infuse a fishy, salty flavor. They’re also high in amino acids – which should be enough reason to add them to your dish.
Give afritadang manok extra protein by sauteing mushrooms along with some aromatics. The extra umami gives your dish bonus points.
Instead of the usual thigh or drumstick in the stew, try boneless chicken breasts. Leaner and healthier, breast fillets cook quicker than bone-in cuts.
Chicken afritada is affordable and uncomplicated. The next time you’re thinking of cooking this stew, give it a pollo al chilindron glow-up. All you’ll need are a few simple ingredients to accomplish this. What are you waiting for? Save a copy of this article and shop for ingredients ASAP!