I’m obviously being facetious when I ask if chicken and rice is a Filipino delicacy. I’m pretty sure the people of the Philippines aren’t the only people who eat a lot of chicken. It does seem, however, that Filipinos always eat rice when they’re eating chicken.
Chicken and Me
Long before I even knew what KFC or Kentucky Fried Chicken was, I was eating fried chicken at home. I was a child of the 1960s. My mother and older sisters didn’t use any special chicken recipe with herbs and spices to contend with. The chicken pieces were dipped in a simple flour batter and fried in a greasy cast iron skillet.
At my first military duty station (between 1979 and 1981), I tried the brand-new (at the time) chicken sandwich at a Jack in the Box in San Diego, California (a franchise I haven’t seen in the Philippines). It was like chomping down on a sawdust sandwich, almost flavorless. It didn’t even taste like chicken. Well, they’ve improved tremendously since the early 1980s.
I tried the Chicken McNuggets introduced by McDonald’s in 1983 but I never took a liking to them. They were too expensive (and still are) and didn’t taste good unless I dipped them into one of various sauces that McDonald’s introduced to go with them. Various other fast-food franchises introduced nuggets, tenders or whatever they decided to call them to compete with McDonald’s.
I ate rice with chicken for the first time after getting married in 1985. My wife is Filipino and she eats rice with almost every meal. I wasn’t a stranger to rice, having eaten my fair share while living in Hawaii from 1974 to 1977. I just hadn’t ever eaten it with chicken.
Chicken and Rice in the Philippines
Sometime after 1978, the Jollibee Corporation in the Philippines introduced a product called “Chickenjoy”. It’s basically just chicken and rice served with a beverage of some kind. I can’t even make an educated guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t what started the trend in the Philippines.
Today, almost every restaurant in the Philippines serves a chicken and rice dish. This includes franchises based in the US where chicken isn’t even sold. Even Pizza Hut and McDonald’s in the Philippines offer chicken and rice dishes. I’m not knocking it – I like having alternatives to burgers, hot dogs and pizzas when I go out to eat.
I’m temporarily living in Phoenix because my real home has been the Philippines since April of 2006. I’m just here to take care of some family issues. My wife is living with me, so I’m not getting away with not eating rice on a semi-regular basis, even if I want to avoid it.
Chicken and Rice in Arizona
I seriously doubt I could find a single restaurant in the metro Phoenix area that serves chicken and rice (together), even if I look for one. The Chinese restaurants serve chicken and they serve rice, but it’s served separately.
It doesn’t matter. My wife buys boneless chicken breasts from one supermarket or another, grills it and serves it with rice. In fact, my lunch and dinner today is a dish consisting of boneless chicken breasts, rice and steamed vegetables that include broccoli and onions. I love to eat chicken, but not as often as my wife likes to eat it.
I’ve never been a fan of American chicken farms where the chickens are kept in dark buildings and fed growth hormones along with the other feed. I prefer chickens that are raised out in the open, the way my grandmother used to do it. When I’m shopping, I’ll look for packages that show no growth hormones were used at any time.
In the Philippines, I’ve had chickens raised in chicken coops (in my back yard), but I always knew exactly what they were being fed because I’m the person who paid for everything. I feel a small amount of pity for people who live in the inner cities here in the US because they’re not allowed to raise any kind of farm animals. Even if they could, where would they put them? A chicken coop on an apartment balcony or something?
While I’m mentioning what animals are being fed and trying to get my animal meats as natural as possible, I know a lot of people don’t have the luxury of choice. You have to weigh the quality of what you buy against what you can afford to buy. Until recent years, I was into eating animal meat more than anything else. Now, I prefer to eat things other than meat a lot more often even though I have no desire to be a vegetarian (or vegan). It’s probably just a middle-age thing but it’s pragmatic as well. Meat is expensive!