The Ritual Preparation of the Pinikpikan
A very good friend, Nico, who is a member of the Bontoc tribe, used to prepare Pinikpikan thrice a week for years. "My father made me do it."
This controversial but popular dish derives its flavor from the coagulated blood, the burned feathers and skin, plus the Etag, which is a cured and smoked meat, aged and kept underground in earthen jars.
Nico says, "Many Baguio visitors -- and even residents -- believe 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."
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.
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I have included his detailed and graphic description of this process in lieu of photos or a video because of the extreme manner of preparing this native Cordillera dish.
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