Chicken Afritada is Filipino chicken stew in tomato sauce with carrots, potatoes and bell peppers. It is one of my Mama’s specialty dishes and she shared with me her secret which I am now sharing with you. There is this slogan in Tagalog, “Sarsa pa lang ulam na!”. And this dish perfectly fits this phrase. It translates to something like the sauce itself is good enough to be a viand. Does that make sense? Well, it would once you try this recipe.
As you know, Filipinos eat everything with rice. You do not eat a dish without rice! It is always ‘kanin at ulam’ ( rice and viand). OK, viand is actually not a direct translation for ‘ulam’ and I think there is no exact English word for it so we use the word viand.
‘Ulam’ simply refers to a dish (or anything) that you eat with the rice. I know some people would eat spaghetti with rice, so in this case, the spaghetti becomes ‘ulam’. Sometimes I also like eating pancit (bihon or canton) with rice. My Mama (and now my nephews too) sometimes eat banana or mango (and nothing else) with rice. It’s a normal Filipino thing.
The secret to best-tasting Chicken Afritada
My Mama’s Chicken Afritada is one of her most requested dishes and it is definitely my Afritada goal. The problem is she does not use exact measurements and just go with her guts and follow what her taste buds say.
She did tell me her secret ingredients though. Margarine or butter, potted meat, and cheese. She adds these at the end and it makes the dish richer and gives it a touch of creaminess.
You may use either butter or margarine. But my Mama’s recipe requires the use of margarine, like Dari Creme. As for the cheese, I am pretty sure she uses the processed cheese we have in the Philippines like Kraft cheese (Eden). The difference with processed cheese, when used in cooking, is that it melts or more like dissolves into the sauce. Unlike the (real) cheeses I used to use when I was abroad, it melts but does not fully integrate into the sauce.
Patience makes perfect
Another thing that makes this recipe great is patience. The longer you cook this dish the better it gets.
Notice the sauce? I promise I didn’t use a lot of oil nor added a tub of margarine. That is from the chicken and the tomato sauce after long simmering and that is the goal. No, not to have a greasy dish but that the oil would separate from the thickened tomato sauce. Then you know you can turn off the heat.
If you find it too greasy for your liking, just skim off some of the oil with a spoon. But what is a little fat from time to time? It’s what makes the dishes tasty.
Additional Tips for cooking Chicken Afritada
- Cut your potatoes and carrots in uniform sizes so they cook evenly and at the same time.
- The best parts or cuts for this kind of dish are the legs and thighs or wings. Never use breast parts because they lack the collagen for long and slow stew and they will become dry and chewy.
- Do not skip the searing of the meat part. This adds a depth of flavor to the dish.
Other Filipino Stew Dishes to try
- Kare Kare -Oxtail and tripe in savory peanut sauce or try the Crispy Kare Kare version
- Chicken Curry with coconut milk
- Cadereta – spicy beef stew cooked in tomato sauce
- Bicol Express – spicy pork cooked in coconut milk with shrimp paste
- Menudo – pork tomato-based stew
- Pochero – pork stew with tomato sauce and bananas
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 big carrot - - cubed
- 1 big potato - - cubed
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion - - chopped
- 2 cloves garlic - - minced
- 1 medium red/green bell pepper
- 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 2 pounds (8 pieces) chicken drumsticks
- salt to taste
- about 1/4 cup potted meat - (optional)
- about 1/4 cup Kraft cheese - (grated processed cheese) or Velveeta (optional)
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Fry carrots and potatoes until edges are lightly browned. Set aside.
- Sear chicken for 2-3 minutes each side. Remove from oil and set aside.
- In the same skillet with oil. Saute garlic and onion until aromatic and limp.
- Pour in the tomato sauce and 1 cup water. Turn heat to low and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until the tomato sauce loses some of its sourness.
- Add the chicken and 1/4 - 1/2 cup water or as needed. Season with salt. Cover and simmer for another 30-40 minutes or until the chicken are cooked through and the sauce is reduced with the oil floating on the surface.
- Add the potatoes, carrots and bell pepper, butter, potted meat and grated cheese. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving dish and serve with hot rice.