My Dad’s Karimbuaya Chicken
We’ve been having this dish since I was a kid. It started when a friend of my dad gave us this plant which he got from the North. Ilocanos called it karimbuaya (also spelled as carambuaya). Dad, being a native of the North as well, knew what to do with it. He planted it in our garden and harvested its leaves from time to time so he could use it for stuffing every time we have roasted chicken. Since then, we’ve been enjoying this chicken dish so much that it has become a well-loved family recipe.
The karimbuaya plant in our garden with its oblong shaped leaves (at left)
Karimbuaya (scientific name: Euphorbia neriifolia) is often mistaken for a cactus (that’s what we thought, too) for it’s prickly thorns. It is actually a type of succulent shrub that can grow as big as a small tree. It is also known as soro-soro in Tagalog and sudu-sudu in the Visayas; Indian spurge tree in India; and milk hedge and oleander spurge in English.
Karimbuaya is also used for medicinal purposes. It is considered purgative while its milky substance is used to treat asthma and coughs and can be applied on warts and calluses.
However, people in Northern Luzon like in Vigan, Ilocos and Abra used it more as stuffing for lechon. When fused with spices and juices from the meat while cooking, it comes up with its own distinct flavor and smell that is uniquely vibrant, tangy and mildly spicy.
I decided to cook Dad’s Karimbuaya Roasted Chicken for Sunday Lunch Project today. It was my first time to do this (among my many firsts), and it was important that I had to have instructions along the way.
I harvested around 8 to 10 karimbuaya leaves from the garden (feeling Barefoot Contessa! lol), getting the top leaves to ensure freshness.
I washed and chopped them up along with onions and garlic. And I cleaned the chicken (my first time to do so! I don’t why I find that funny but haha!) and put in a bath of soy sauce, salt and pepper. I also added an ingredient that I can’t reveal because it’s a family secret – Sorry! I stuffed the chicken with the mixture of chopped karimbuaya, onions and garlic. After I sealed its cavity with needle and thread, it was ready for the oven. Well, in my case, the turbo broiler (which is a kind of circular convection oven for those who are unfamiliar with this contraption).
I let the chicken cook for 35 to 45 minutes (please note that cooking in the turbo takes less time than an ordinary oven), turning and inverting it so all sides were evenly roasted at a temperature of 250 degrees. And this was the result:
I like the wing part the best, along with a hefty serving of steaming white rice. This is really good when you eat it with the karimbuaya stuffing and if you are not too health-conscious, mix it with the tasty drippings from the chicken as well. Ooh, yeah!
So was my Karimbuaya Chicken a hit or a miss?
Answer: Oh, I better make it a hit or else my dad would disown me. Just kiddin! Of course it was a hit! Since it was a time-tested, reliable family recipe, nothing could go wrong. And unlike my Thyme-Lemon Chicken fiasco, this was much more flavorful. It was an absolute yum-yum, as always! Thanks to my dad’s friend, we didn’t have to travel up North to get karimbuaya. This dish is something we will cherish for years to come.
Postscript: Since it was an easy recipe, I decided to prepare a more challenging and intimidating (well, at least, for me) recipe for my next SLP…
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Karimbuaya info sources: Asia Pacific Medicinal Plant Database bpi.da.gov.ph