Mother Cluckin' Good Chicken


Apparently, we Americans do not have a monopoly on animal noises. I always assumed that "cock-a-doodle doo" was the universal translation of the rooster wake-up call — similarly, "cluck, cluck" for hens and "chirp, chirp" for baby chicks. Wrong! In Spanish, roosters go "kikiriki," and mama hens go "kara,kara, kara," while their baby chicks answer "pio, pio." Pio Pio is also a chain of Peruvian rotisserie chicken joints (that serve pollos a la brasa), which proves that we Americans also do not have a monopoly on roast chicken.

I stopped in at the Rego Park, Queens, location of Pio Pio and ordered a whole chicken to go. Setting it down in my favorite mobile dining destination (my car), I immediately ripped apart the bag and proceeded to immediately rip apart the chicken in a manner that would have made King Henry VIII proud. Besides the drippings from what I understand to be a 12-hour secret marinade, the only other condiment was an even more secret neon-green liquid sauce — more on that in a minute.

The whole chicken was perfectly quartered already and had the loveliest brown skin for a roast chicken that I’ve ever laid eyes upon. As I separated the wings from the breasts and the legs from the thighs, the chicken practically deboned itself. The juicy white meat needed no condiments, yet I gingerly dipped a piece into the beckoning green sauce. "Cock-a-doodle doo," I mean "kikiriki"! My palate was awakened to the delights of the mysterious Peruvian aji sauce, which has apparently consternated dozens of fellow food bloggers as it not only defies description (hot, smooth, salty, sweet?) but also reverse engineering, since Pio Pio apparently guards its recipe much the way Coca-Cola secures its original formula.

Interestingly, I've had a similar green sauce at the Sophie's/Tina's Cuban chain in the Manhattan. In any case, the stuff should be bottled, except that the FDA gets annoyed if you don't list the ingredients on the label.

Besides being fall-apart-tender and juicy, with a skin that tastes as beautiful as it looks, the chicken (only $11 for the whole bird) was delectable. After devouring the entire chicken in a matter of minutes, I was left happily chirping for the rest of the evening. Pio, Pio, Pio!