Panamá, being the proverbial melting pot, has an incredibly abundant Chinese presence. You can’t walk more than a few yards before stumbling into a Chinese restaurant or a corner tienda, a little neighborhood store where you can buy everything from fresh bread to pigs feet and a hammer. That means Chinese food has been influenced by the locals’ taste buds and available produce. Chinese food in Panama is completely different from Chinese food in Houston and Houston’s is nothing like Chinese food in NYC. Adaptability. I often wonder if I would enjoy Chinese food in China. But I digress.
I’ve shared with you a recipe for roast chicken very popular in Latin America. This is pretty much the same thing with a few changes and the addition of this ketchupy sauce added to chicken in Panama. I don’t know what it is about this simple sauce, but it would probably fall under the Chino-Latino category. Almost every Chinese restaurant in Panama will offer some version of this rotisserie chicken and BBQ pork, which is absolutely divine.
The chicken is seasoned pretty much the same, then roasted to golden perfection and served with the yummy sauce all over it. To ensure the chicken is super juicy, I brined it for just over an hour, ideally, I would’ve allowed it to brine longer, but it was still delicious. It occurs to me that this would also work brilliantly with turkey, I may just give it a try. Here’s what you’re looking for.
1 whole chicken, about 4-6 lbs
For the brine:
2 Sazón packets
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup ketchup
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup water
Habanero hot sauce, to taste
1 garlic clove, halved
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
For the chicken: Heat about ½ cup of water and add the garlic, salt, Italian seasoning and sugar for the brine, allow it to come to a quick boil, then turn off and transfer to a bowl large enough to submerge the chicken. Or you can use a large resealable bag. Give it just a couple of minutes to cool, then add the rest of the brine ingredients.
In the meantime, remove the giblets from the chicken’s cavity and rinse the chicken under cool water. Drain and place the chicken in the bowl with the brine concentrate and fill the bowl with enough water to submerge the chicken. Allow the chicken to marinate in the brine for about an hour, longer if you have the time.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a roasting pan and rack large enough to hold the chicken. Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Rub it with extra virgin olive oil and place on the rack breast side down. I prefer to roast whole chickens and turkeys with the breast down to make sure it is juicy, since breast isn’t my favorite meat. If you’d rather have pretty skin on the breast, then roast it breast side up. Place the chicken in the preheated oven and allow it to roast for about 20 minutes per pound, for a 5-pounder, you’re looking at just under 2 hours.
Note: I will usually roast the chicken or turkey at 375°F for about 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350° for the remainder of the roasting time, but I was being very lazy with this chickie. You know what? It was still perfect!
Once the internal temperature reads somewhere around 180°-185°F, remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Allow it to rest to allow the juices to redistribute and make Ms. Chickie very happy. This is a good time to put the sauce together if you haven’t already.
In a small saucepan, heat a bit of olive oil and add the garlic halves allowing them to permeate the oil for a minute or two. Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting it after the first teaspoon of sugar, this should be to your taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, but the soy should take care of it. Bring it to a slow simmer for 5 minutes or so, keep it warm and spoon over the chicken to plate.