I ate nothing but fried chicken and rice for a whole week, and survived
Fried chicken is an integral pillar of Filipino life. I’m not being ironic. We eat fried chicken any chance we get, to partner with rice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Any party host worth their salt has to have fried chicken on their menu. Like Italian home cooks with pasta, a Filipino’s homemade fried chicken has got to be better than everybody else’s. As if we don’t all cheat sometimes: fried chicken places are a dime a dozen in Metro Manila. In almost every Filipino town, there is at least one cart selling these glorious calorie bombs at PHP 15 a piece. And if that’s not sulit enough, there are carts that sell bags of deep-fried chicken skin or neck for the same price.
Put simply, we are a chicken-crazy nation, and I count myself among the higher-order poultry addicts out there.
So when a friend of mine suggested what a fun time it would be to eat nothing but fried chicken for seven days, I immediately challenged said friend with a bet. I’ll eat fried chicken and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire week. If I needed to snack on something, it would have to be fried chicken and rice as well. If I’m successful, my friend will pay back every peso I spent on the challenge. If I failed, I’ll be treating the whole barkada to a night out anywhere they wish, with me picking up the tab.
I was already regretting even making the bet a few hours after I agreed to it. It was dinner with the folks, and we were having vegetables. The full meaning of my decision had only started to sink in, like some sick delayed-action nerve agent. I would be pumping myself full of fat and oil (bad), as well as excess protein and carbs that I won’t be using anytime soon (bad). But there was no going back: hands have been shaken, people have been told. I have to win the bet, or I’ll end up a few pounds heavier and thousands of pesos poorer.
Fried chicken: The breakdown
What’s in a fried chicken and rice meal, anyway?
A quick search gives you a list of fried chicken parts and their nutritional value. With a bit of number-crunching, I found that a 110g serving of fried chicken contains an average of 326 calories, 23g of protein, 20g of fat, 13g of carbs (from the breading), 606mg of sodium, 354mg of potassium, and 108mg of cholesterol. Yikes.
The rice that comes with almost all chicken meals sold in this country contains the following: 204 calories, 0.44g of fat, 44.1g of carbohydrates, and 4.2g of protein.
The gravy that I douse my fried chicken with (yes, my friend, you are not alone) contains 45 calories, 3.24g of fat, 3.1g of carbs, 1.1g of protein, and 327mg of sodium.
This seven-day fried chicken binge wasn’t just going to be bad for my heart. My kidneys looked like they were in for a beating with all the sodium in my meals. I began to think I was wading into some pretty deep shit by doing this challenge.
- Eat fried chicken and rice from any location for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want snacks, munch on fried chicken and nothing else.
- The chicken must be on-the-bone. Fillets, burger patties, and other fried processed chicken products are not allowed.
- Eat everything on the plate; this is the only valid excuse for eating anything other than fried chicken.
- If you’re too full, you may skip a fried chicken meal.
- Any kind of liquid may be consumed.
- Don’t die; tap out of the challenge if you feel your body is starting to hate you.
BREAKFAST: There’s a McDonald’s near our house in Pasay, and that’s where I grab my first fried chicken meal of the week. I can’t say much about the meal, since I’ve never really thought highly of their chicken. I have to admit, they’ve improved on the recipe though. It’s not the same weird pale orange-colored batter they were using when I was a kid.
LUNCH: Also near our house is an S&R fast food outlet. Besides selling the ginormous pizza slices everyone’s been going crazy over recently, they also serve what they call “Southern Style” fried chicken meals that come in large-ish take-out boxes. They must be good, because quite a number of people were buying them. So I bought one for my lunch. The chicken was indeed big, but a bit on the salty side. The gravy looked promising, but ultimately disappointing. It had specs of black pepper that just didn’t cut through the gravy’s vague umami taste.
DINNER: I grabbed a fried chicken meal at a Makati Family Mart on my way to work. Eating it was glorious relative to my S&R experience a few hours earlier. The chicken was garlicky and flavorful to the bone, and the mushroom-flavored gravy complemented it perfectly. My only problem: the chicken wasn’t just crispy; it was actually too hard on the outside. Not an ideal situation for people with braces. I chalked it up to the chicken being left too long under heat lamps.
BREAKFAST: I decided to go to a KFC joint along Ayala Avenue right after work. Remember the meme about some people drowning their meals in gravy like it was soup? Guilty right there. I ordered fried chicken wings and spiced rice for breakfast. It was good.
LUNCH: My girlfriend and I had volunteered to be models for a project by two of our photographer friends. Before going to the shoot, we stopped at a Jollibee in Pasay Rotonda for lunch. As a kid, whenever I was sick, my parents would buy me a Chickenjoy meal. I loved Chickenjoy so much that even if I wasn’t down with a fever, I would act like I had a convincingly bad headache just to make them buy some Jollibee fried chicken for me. This time, I got a thigh piece, which usually has part or all of the chicken’s butt. I never eat chicken butt – except if it’s on a piece of Chickenjoy. Having enjoyed the meal, I felt I could survive the week-long challenge after all.
DINNER: I bought an S&R fried chicken meal before work, purely because it was near our house. To my surprise, the meal went down easier with an extra cup of rice. Side effect: I felt bloated for the next few hours.
BREAKFAST: On the way home, I grabbed another S&R fried chicken meal for the morning. Eating chicken from the same store twice in a row was putting a damper on my appetite. Finishing it felt like a chore. I slept sad.
LUNCH: To save myself from hating fried chicken altogether, I went to a Jollibee in a mall two rides away from our house. I didn’t enjoy the meal, but at least I felt a need to finish the whole thing.
DINNER: Day 3 of the fried chicken challenge hadn’t ended yet, and I was already thinking about backing out of it. I decided that I needed to shake things up, throw convenience out the window and actually go to my favorite fried chicken places. But that would have to wait. For dinner, I went to a Chowking in Pasay Rotonda. They serve their chicken on a bed of shrimp cracklings and the usual side of rice. Like Family Mart’s chicken, theirs is crispy and flavorful without too much breading. My faith in deep-fried poultry was restored.
BREAKFAST: I was fast becoming a regular at our local S&R joint because of the challenge. I ordered a fried chicken meal to go and ate it at home. This is the fourth day, I was telling myself, things will have to get better. I considered hitting the gym again, like I did on a regular basis before recklessly agreeing to the bet, but decided to put it off until I’m done with my week-long fried chicken binge. I thought it might be interesting to know how much weight I would have put on by the end of it all.
LUNCH: I finally got around to ordering pineapple juice instead of soda with my meals, as well as drinking lots of water. I was bent on flushing out all the sodium I’d been consuming for the past four days. I went to a Jollibee in Makati and requested for a thigh cut. Hello, chicken butt.
DINNER: At work, I suddenly found myself craving for Family Mart fried chicken. Satisfying it would have meant simply going to the nearest Family Mart and buying a chicken meal for myself. It instead turned into a marathon 45-minute search around Ayala Center for a Family Mart that a) wasn’t closed for inventory and b) actually had fried chicken available. By the time I was able to buy dinner, I was pissed and had already lost my appetite. I put off eating it until after work.
BREAKFAST: I ate the Family Mart chicken I bought a few hours previously, and followed it up with a Jollibee Chickenjoy meal on my way home. I noticed a hard and painful lump on the left side of my jaw that didn’t exist before the challenge. This troubled me. I put in a trip to the doctor over the weekend on my planner.
LUNCH: I went to our local McDonald’s and requested for a drumstick cut. I was still full from the two chicken meals I ate for breakfast, so I wasn’t in a real mood to eat. I had to will myself to finish the whole thing. It was Day 5 of the challenge, and I had just hit rock bottom: fried chicken wasn’t making me happy, my body had started to grow lumps where there shouldn’t be any, and I was a meal away from swearing off chicken entirely.
DINNER: I was on the brink of destroying my lifelong relationship with fried chicken. I had to act before it’s too late. On the way to work, I stopped by Chopstop at McKinley and EDSA and ordered a mean plate of chicken, rice and nachos. Oh, was it good! I thought the chicken was a little over-seasoned, and the salty gravy wasn’t helping much. But I still enjoyed the meal. Fried chicken and I were holding hands again.
BREAKFAST: Before logging out from work, I visited the office clinic to have myself weighed. I wasn’t surprised to see that I had gained a whole kilo after just five days of eating chicken and rice. To be honest, I was expecting much worse. I went straight to the nearest KFC and got myself a couple of chicken wings.
Now you’re probably wondering about my bathroom situation through all of this. Amazingly, my poops were normal all week. I felt my body was doing a great job at expelling everything it had to expel, and it was able to do so regularly. It must have been all that pineapple juice.
LUNCH: I had to go to Gilmore to have my laptop fixed. While waiting for it to be done, I decided to go to Cubao to pass the time. Once I felt hungry from all the walking, I ordered a fried chicken meal from the Chowking counter in a mall food court. It wasn’t satisfying, but it was still food.
DINNER: After getting my laptop back from the repair guys, I went straight to Maginhawa – home to one of the liveliest food scenes in the Metro. I was waiting all week to go to either one of my favorite chicken places in QC: Indonyaki, a roadside Indonesian food stall along Maginhawa; and Chubby Chicken, a vibey fry pit off-Katipunan swamped by college kids for its fried chicken and deep-fried Twinkies.
I had somewhere else to go later that night, and Katipunan was too out of the way, so I chose Indonyaki. I had to stand and wait for around 20 minutes as all the tables were taken. When finally given a table, I straight away ordered their quirky deconstructed fried chicken meal (that has an Indonesian name I can’t recall). The breading doesn’t coat the chicken. Instead, it’s laid on top of the chicken. What you essentially get is perfectly cooked fried poultry with a side of crisps. The dish contains a gallon of oil, but after 6 days of eating fried bird, I can’t even give a rat’s ass about that stuff.
What got me through were the dips. One is a thin garlicky mayonnaise-based dip. The other one is a sambal-type sauce that is sweet and spicy. The two dips work well together, and they bring the chicken dish to life. I walked away from Indonyaki a happy man.
BREAKFAST: I spent my Saturday night with some college buddies downing shots of Ginebra San Miguel – you know, that stuff that catches fire if you light it up. Bad decision. I woke up dehydrated and grumpy. We were stuck in the middle of Fairview’s endless subdivisions, with mean hangovers and nothing to eat. We called up a local McDonald’s to deliver some breakfast. Now, on mornings like this, I make a beeline for sweet breakfast stuff like pancakes or cereal. But I still had a challenge to finish, so I grudgingly mumbled out an order for fried chicken and hot choco. The only thing that got me through it was the thought of having this whole chicken madness over and done with. Two more meals.
LUNCH: Back in Pasay, the previous night’s alcohol still lingered in my gut like ugly lead butterflies, so I went to a mall to check out some books. After scoring a couple of bargains, I decided to one-up my target of 21 fried chicken meals. I ate at two places, one after the other: Wendy’s and Bonchon Chicken. The fried chicken at Wendy’s wasn’t spectacular, but it was okay. A major disappointment for me, though, was Bonchon. The honey-glazed thigh piece I got was smaller than what its PHP 99 price tag warranted. And the chicken didn’t have as much flavor inside as it did outside.
I didn’t want to end my chicken challenge with a disappointing meal, but I was also too lazy to haul myself to QC and dine at Chubby Chicken. Dejected, I rode a jeep to Baclaran to attend Sunday Mass.
DINNER: Emerging from church, I tried searching for a fried chicken place in Baclaran. My choices were Max’s, Andoks, and Mini Stop. Max’s was too expensive, and Andoks too blah. I figured, since I was surprised by how good Family Mart’s chicken is, a similar treat might be waiting for me at Mini Stop. I ordered a barbeque-glazed fried chicken, and got a huge thigh cut for just under Php80. And it actually tasted good, inside and out. It redeemed the glazed chicken experience for me, and was a fitting last meal for my week-long fried chicken challenge.
I sent a text to my friend with whom I made the bet. Get ready to fork over your money, I told him, I’ve eaten 22 fried chicken meals and you just lost.
If you’re wondering what 22 fried chicken meals look like, here are the stats:
Restaurants/take-out counters tried: 11
Money spent: Php2,200
Protein: 622.6++ g
Fat: 521.4++ g
Carbs: 1.32++ kg
Sodium: 20.53++ g
Potassium: 7.8++ g
Cholesterol: 2.4++ g
Three days after I noticed it on Day 5 of the challenge, the hard lump under the left side of my jaw had not gone anywhere. I had myself checked by Dr. Kirt Areis Delovino, head and neck cancer surgeon at St. Luke’s in Quezon City. He felt around my neck for the lump before telling me that there was really nothing to worry about. As it turned out, the lump was caused by a blocked salivary gland because apparently I wasn’t drinking enough water. The good doctor prescribed no meds, and just told me to drink as much water as I can to make the lump go away.
Since I was already in a doctor’s clinic, I went ahead and asked Dr. Delovino if my week-long fried chicken diet had other negative effects. He explained that since fried chicken is full of oil and fat, I could’ve done better had I continued working out during the challenge. That way, my body would have converted the fat and oil into testosterone. But he reassured me that aside from being a few pounds heavier, I should be just fine.
“Do it for half a year, then you’ll see changes,” he added.
I took his word for it, relieved that I won’t be growing feathers because of all the poultry I consumed. I was glad the fried chicken challenge was over. In some ways, I enjoyed eating fried chicken for an entire week. You don’t always get the chance to eat your favorite food for seven straight days – or go into foolhardy bets to do it, for that matter.
For now, however, I didn’t want to see another fried chicken meal. Walking away from St. Luke’s, I went looking for the nearest fruit stand and bought an apple. It was the best apple I’ve had in years.
Toby Roca is a full-time BPO worker and part-time millennial. Tweet him at @tobyroca.
You might also like: