Max’s Fried Chicken


The mouth feel and taste of Max’s Fried Chicken has been etched into my brain and taste buds since my teens. There is something about the dried out skin, oozing with oil, and max2the deep fried chicken that is, well, memorable. However, as I have gotten older, I can’t for the life of me explain why I am drawn to this dish. In fact, I am almost certain it is laced with something that keeps me wanting to try it again and again but seconds after I eat it I want to run out of the restaurant with arms flailing and screaming for someone to handcuff me and never let me back near another Max’s ever again. It is the same “after consumption dread” that I feel when I eat a Big Mac, it tastes so good for those 45 seconds of chewing it, but so bad for hours afterwards. I last ate at Max’s fried chicken over a year ago and I swore then I would not return. I thought I had just outgrown the dish, whatever its attraction in an earlier life…

But today I needed to buy some takeout food for some impromptu guests of the Kid, and I happened to be at a National Book Store that was close to a Max’s Restaurant. So I broke down and was hypnotized by the smell of frying chicken and ordered two LARGE chickens to take home. I paid a total of PHP640 for two birds that were out in just 6-8 minutes. Back home, I unwrapped the chickens and they are in the photos up above. Hello?!?, max3the first thing that struck me was their diminutive size. If these were the LARGE birds, the small birds could apply for midget roles in a film starring Cornish hens!!! These were small chickens and looked a bit tortured as they were probably thrown whole into a deep fryer to re-heat them before serving (you can’t fry a whole chicken from raw to done in 6 minutes, I don’t think. I like that they weren’t drowned in floury coatings with spices but the naked and unhappy look was not beguiling…I mean, take a look at the legs, the meat has pulled back so far the bones reminded me of famine victims in unnamed African countries…

At any rate, the taste was still the same as eons ago, chicken in a LOT of fat. And yes, they were flavorful. max4The skin was a sort of crispy/chewy texture, the meat not too dry and not too moist either. The best part of the meal was the banana ketchup, which I only eat with Max’s Fried Chicken. I had two small pieces of chicken and that was it. I am cured. I don’t think I will have to ever go back. Sorry, Max’s, I just can’t get back into it. Nostalgia must play a huge roll in diners going back for more and more. So much so that the folks that own Max’s have now ventured into Krispy Kreme doughnuts, reportedly committing to opening 30-40 branches of them in short order, another deep fried venture… Is it just me? Am I just getting old? Or have I simply outgrown this icon of fried chicken in the Philippines?


58 Responses

  1. hello, marketman.

    the only time i ever get to eat max’s is on my way or back from baguio, in the hacienda luisita stop which is infinitely better than the old vilmar’s halfway-stop in tarlac. you’re right, it tastes exactly the same as we remember it from before, momentary addictive and lardy and nicely neutralized by banana catsup or their sweet version of a coleslaw that has a sliver of jelly on top. and i’m fine eating it once or twice a year and no more than that.

  2. I love them. I can finish the whole chicken without blinking with a mix of banana ketchup and tomato ketchup, regular soda and a piece of bread and no meat left on the bone – poor dog. They are pure chicken no fillers in them. Simply delicious. Their aroma is very inviting. They pioneered the fried chicken before other competitors came in with different concept of the chicken.

  3. Poppycock, speaking of nostalgia, I used to love the pancit palabok from the old Vilmar’s of yore…

  4. I was told that Max’s fried chicken came about when some American GI’s stationed here in the Philippines who were homesick for fried chicken gave the recipe to a Filipino to cook. I remember watching a scene from an old movie (B&W) wherein the actor, while having dinner with his date at Max’s, makes a sauce with banana catsup, Maggi seasoning and Tabasco. I followed his chicken sauce and it was really good. That’s how I make my sauce up to now.

  5. I still like eating Max’s fried chicken despite knowing that they’re fried in lard—cholesterol overload! :) For the sauce I mix Jufran, worcestershire and Tabasco. I should try Maggi seasoning, that sounds really good too. I loved the chicken sisig at their San Francisco branch (although we’ve been there only once, we live hundreds of miles away)-it was a perfect mixture of fried chicken, chicken liver and peppers and tasted like it had some gata thrown in. I eagerly ordered it the last time we were in the Phils but was sadly disappointed- it was nearly all liver and hardly had any chicken.

  6. Chicken is generally tender but I’ve had experiences when the oil in which it was fried tastes rancid. Good enough food during seminars though.

  7. exactly, exactly, MM! thanks for putting into words what many of us have always felt but have never quite been able to explain. sometimes, it’s just the memories that keep us going back. by the way, i heard that max’s steams the chickens before deep-frying them – that should explain the very quick frying time, and why it doesn’t get too dried up. but i agree, they’re puny, even in this land of pygmy chickens…

  8. I’be heard that too, millet. I was told the chicken is already pre-cooked. It’s been a long time since I’ve had Max’s fried chicken, what I like about them most is that they are not soaked or double dipped in breadings which American fast foods like KFC, Church’s and Popeyes do. Now, talk about artery clogging cholesterol.
    As a child I remember having loads of take out Max’s chicken, well, until the lechon manok came. Now that, paired with atchara, is chicken heaven.

  9. I’m still a HUGE fan of Max’s Fried Chicken — with banana ketchup and kamote fries on the side. Agree with you that they’re quite tiny though. =)

    I remember when Kenny Rogers and all their fancy sides first came to the Philippines, Max’s immediately came out with a TV Commercial saying they simply offered excellent chicken that didn’t need to be hidden beneath side dishes. Years later, Kenny Rogers enjoys moderate (to declining?) success, and Max’s continues to dominate.

  10. i’m not a super huge fan of fried chicken but once in a while, max’s beckons me to eat a quarter chicken (although size-wise, parang 1pc chicken lang sha). and it is the only time i would have banana ketchup. i also love their caramel bar. :)

    wysgal–i had chicken at kenny rogers a couple of days ago, they;ve been renovating! and service is not cafeteria style anymore.

  11. MM, I couldn’t agree more. While I was reading this entry, for one brief moment, I thought I wrote it myself. I hate banana ketchup, but somehow with Max’s fried chicken it tastes like some miracle dip sauce from the God’s of UFC. On its own, I can’t even stand the sight of its incosistent shades of artificial red food coloring. And yes, the chicken has got to be laced with something that makes it impossible to resist, the so familiar taste and aroma…and the few fond memories of my younger years. I never like Max’s but I just couldn’t make myself not go there specially whenever there are very few other options. Like landing at NAIA II at 5:30 a.m. and the only fairly decent food place open along the way, on Roxas Blvd., is Max’s in Malate. Or is that Aristocrat? Well, same difference. But thanks to Max’s owners, my carry on luggage won’t have to be boxes full of doughnuts, Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And I am so sure it don’t go well with banana ketchup.

  12. I only eat Max’s fried chicken in Tarlac when we go up to Baguio or when my brother brings some for family get-togethers. When you analyze it, their fried chicken doesn’t really taste good but I guess it “feels” good while you’re eating it. Heck, you’re even tempted to sing out their tagline “sarap to the bones!” Then after that, there is a slight feeling of disgust. Maybe we’ve all just become a little more health conscious nowadays. Nostalgia and current health sensibilities are playing a game of tug of war, hence the ambiguous or confused feelings we have for this old favorite.

  13. One thing’s for sure though, I’ll continue eating their chicken for as long as my brother brings some to our family dinners. But outside of that, I don’t really have the urge to seek it myself.

  14. I’m thinking what would be a better alternative to feed a bunch of kids and one adult for P640.00? Any ideas?

  15. Len, two grocery rotisserie chickens at say PHP199 each with a quick homemade coleslaw salad, recipe here… This would be just as easy to buy, would taste less greasy and more flavorful (in my opinion), and cost 35% less… If you go the kanto lechon manok route from a trusted supplier, you could save even more…

  16. Max’s isn’t one of the places i’d consider eating in whenever i go out. However, if by chance i do go there. I always end up gobbling lotsa fried chicken dipped in jufran banana ketchup mixed with their worcestershire sauce! And with regards to lecho manok..Sr. Pedro chicken is delicious!

  17. I used to eat a whole spring chicken at Max’s or Savory as a kid.I have this love for cooked birds. I mean poultry! LOL But havent been there for more than a year. My last visit, I didnt even ordered a chicken.
    I agree with peterb!! I like the Senor Pedro lechon manok, probably marinated/stuffed with lemongrass and other herbs. It’s juicy! I got addicted to it that I have tried copying it at home using a turbo broiler. I literally had lechon manok every weekend.

  18. MM, You’re drawn to this dish because it’s comfort food. And then you get binger’s remorse :-P Personally, I much prefer Savory fried chicken (from the original Escolta branch).

    I’ve just started reading Heston Blumenthal’s (of Fat Duck fame) book ‘In Search of Perfection’.

    He says that for many of us, perfect food won’t be some fancy restaurant food. If we were stuck on an island, our dream dish would be something we grew up with and have taken to heart. He cites that the foremost last meal requests of prisoners on death row in Texas were fried eggs, fried bacon, ice cream, chocolate milk, burgers and french fries. Before you leap to ascribing this to penal-colony demographics, he quickly notes that chefs exhibit similar homespun cravings.

    Anthony Bourdain in ‘A Cook’s Tour’ talks about the Last Meal Game he plays with other cooks. Braised ribs and cold meatloaf are among the choices, and he points out, ‘No one came back with ‘the tasting menu at Ducasse’.

    MM, How about a Max’s friend chicken for your last meal? :-)

  19. Pecorino, I totally agree with the comfort food and what you grew up with train of thought. I see it every week in the comments of folks near and far on this blog when I post a dish, a fruit, an ingredient that jars one’s memory of time long ago and associated with something pleasant. However, no thanks, Max’s is not going to be on my last meal list. Tulip and Peterb, I am now curious about the Sr. Pedro Manok…I saw a stall in Cebu with lines 20 folks long at about 630 pm one evening…hmmm, I have to investigate!

  20. Back when I was a kid in Manila around 1970 I remember loving going to Max’s. Back then they also served steak. Do they still do that?

  21. Marketman,I believe Sr. Pedro Manok is a real Cebu treat. The sawsawan is made up of soy sauce, labuyo and vinegar. It has almost the same taste with Cebu style Roasted Pig. They have few branches around Manila too. If you ever buy it around Manila, do purchase it early. They usually get short of lechon manok to sell and you cant even choose among what’s left. Btw, I might as well check where you get your Cebu Lechon here in Manila since its quite too pricey to order from Cebu, as I have always do.

  22. I still crave Max’s Fried chicken. Haven’t had it in 10 yrs. This time I’ll make a note to taste it when I go home to ‘Pinas.

  23. I’ve never had Max’s fried chicken, but it looks very similar to the fried chicken that my mom makes for my kids and my sisters kids. First she parboils the chicken pieces in broth, vinegar, peppercorns, salt and lots of garlic, then it is deep fried. It is eaten dipped in hot(spicy) vinegar with lots of freshly cooked rice. My kids love them and can easily eat a platterful in a sitting.

  24. I am not a big fan of Max’s Fried Chicken. It is something about selling it with catsup I think ;). My most memorable dine-in experience was in an out of Manila branch, when they served a chicken serving with deep-fried flies on it, and the nerve of the manager to inquire how come there were two flies on it when the waiter saw only just one! On take-away chickens, Savory or Country Chicken or Popeye is on the top of my list:).

  25. When my husband and I was dating I took him to Max at Greenbelt, him being a foreigner, liked the chicken the way it is. He did say that the sauce was sweeter than normal sauces he had. And that everything in the RP is sweeter, ie bread, sauces, coke, etc. Paired with Jufran it is such a fab combo. Now when we have chix we often joke about that time we had Max’s!

  26. i agree that the overrated Max’s is more for the nostalgia than the taste. Then again if it’s nostalgia i’m after i would rather go to Aristocrat on Roxas blvd. Not as greasy.

    While we’re on the topic of takeaway chicken, don’t forget Andok’s. Had some andok’s recently and the chicken was very tasty in a sort of generic asian way, and quite juicy and succulent. They must inject it with a brine (soy?) solution because even the breast meat is juicy.

    Pecorino, i knew i should’ve bought that heston blumenthal book. was close to buying it at Waitrose supermarket but hesitated because of airline weight restrictions. wonder if its available locally..

    tulip, thanks for that tip, i didn’t know Sr Pedro manok was from cebu. will give it a shot.

  27. I’ve never heard of the Sr Pedro manok. Gotta try it. Does anyone know if there is a branch in the New Manila/Greenhills or Fort Bonifacio/Makati areas? Thanks

  28. Chris, I am not so sure where Sr. Pedro’s branches within your area. My daily route is usually within the business districts. But try to check out the vicinity around St. Luke’s going to Tomas Morato. I have seen one in Makati before, route/side street going to Cash & Carry. I’ve seen one also in Mandaluyong, the usual route going to Policarpio St. from EDSA.

  29. The branch of Sr. Pedro in Mandaluyong is in Maysilo street. That’s the circle where the city is located. It’s where the former Tumba Tumba was located. (incidentally, Tumba Tumba has the best crispy pata i have ever tasted.) I had a former officemate from General Santos that said the Sr. Pedro is really popular in their area. Compared to Andoks and Baliwag, i find it juicier and generally tastes better. The sauce really goes well with the chicken too.

  30. I too was a fan of Max’s so during my last repat went to the EDSA Shangri-La branch and eat the usual fried chicken. After several years of chicken overload here in Saudi Arabia, I think Max’s does not impress my anymore. You are right MM, it must be the age factor :(

  31. Well at least Max’s is better than Jollibee’s. Few nights ago, my family and I were looking for a place to eat and ended up along San Antonio Highway in Binan, laguna. As usual the fried chicken is dry and taste of oil is horrible, rancid and overwhelming. I felt like throwing up after the dinner and ask each family member how they like the Jollibee’s fried chicken. Response: lasang paulit ulit na mantikang pinaglutuan. With the long line and the uncontrollable kids running around unescorted, and with the kind of fried chicken we had, we decided that never again we will eat fried chicken sa Jollibee. Mabuti pa sa McDonald kahit breaded at dry masarap ang lasa. We also had spaghetti,a cup of chilli and hamburger at Wendy’s Taft corner Buendia, we felt cheated with the money we paid. The portion is too small and the taste and quality of chilli and burger are nothing comparable to American Wendy’s.

  32. I love Max’s Fried Chicken. When I went home in 2002 (first time in 9 years), Max’s chicken was on my list of must-eats, along with cochinillo at Casa Armas, a couple of burgers at Jollibee, chocolate and churros at Dulcinea, and isaw from any roadside vendor inside the UP Diliman campus. :)

  33. It’s a hit or miss thing for us whenever we eat at Max’s. Sometimes the chicken is good, but most of the time, it’s not. It’s usually dry or too small. I would have Sr. Pedro over Max’s anytime. I prefer it over Baliwag or Andok’s. The chicken has the taste of the tanglad that goes well with the soy/vinegar sauce. yummy!

  34. Fried Chicken Ala Max’s. Found this recipe on and it’s worth a try! Bring out the Jufran!

    whole black pepper
    3 pieces of star anis (sangke)
    sliced ginger

    Fill pan with water (chicken must be totally immersed in water)
    Add 1 tablespoon of whole black pepper and 3 pieces of star anis (sangke)
    Add sliced ginger and salt according to taste
    Boil chicken for 10 to 15 minutes using low fire
    Drain and deep-fry. Don’t forget to use a tub of lard for frying!

  35. Tried the Sr Pedro Manok last night. Turns out there is a branch along N Domingo somewhere near M Paterno. Better than any lechon manok I’ve tried by leaps and bounds. Definitely better than any fried chicken too. It’s like JT’s inasal but the meat is much jucier.

  36. Chris, is it near the N. Domingo/Gilmore intersection? Or further down the road? Yikes, suddenly am having a chicken inasal craving! With lots of chicken oil on the garlic rice!

  37. Marketman! i heard that their chicken is cooked in pork fat from one of the chefs in culinary school…i don’t know if this is true though…i just asked my father to get me one chicken for dinner…it’s been years since i last ate max’s chicken…

  38. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t really eat much of it growing up, therefore have no nostalgic feelings for it, but I’ve just never understood what people like about Max’s. Whenever people rave about Max’s, I feel like Joey did with Assumption tarts! ;-) It’s almost as if I’m not a true-blue Pinoy unless I love this fried chicken. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten Max’s food on my two hands, and I can’t remember ever enjoying a single time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s *bad* food; just not something I care about eating again. And given my usual taste in food, it’s definitely NOT because their fried chicken’s unhealthy!

  39. Hi Mila. It’s further down the road on the San Juan side, after broadway. I think it’s somwhere near the Shell station right after M Paterno. I have to ask our driver though, just to be sure. Will get back to you later…

  40. There are a few Max’s Fried Chicken restaurants here in the SF bay area now and fortunately for me, i just live 10miles aways from one.

    The taste of these fried chickens are still to die for, $13 for a whole regular chicken but they actually serve two halves and and $12 for a whole spring chicken.

    And of course I could not eat them without the Jufran banana catsup with Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce,,,that’s the only way to eat this chicken, which the restaurant always provides.

    I used to think how they were really fried but i just gave up trying,,,i’m lucky enough to get it from the source.

  41. just saw your post, peterb, about tumba tumba having the best crispy pata you’ve ever tasted. But did you ever go around malate, nakpil st. in the mid to late90s when the nightlife there was so much fun? there was a club called Insomnia and it was mainly a bar with clubby music but they had a crispy pata that used to blow our minds, if not our arteries.

    When Insomnia finally shut down the tears shed were not for the club itself but for the crispy pata.

    Then i found out it is available again today because the guy, Rem, who owned Insomnia has put up another place on Jupiter called Luce, a bar/lounge, and had, understandably, never let go of his crispy pata cook all this time in between clubs.

    Luce is on the 3rd floor of one of the low rise buildings closer to the edsa side of jupiter.

    So if you’re looking for great crispy pata, you can check out Luce (pronounced ‘Loo cheh’). It’s a modern cocktail lounge for sure but just ignore the booze and go straight for the crispy pata! Noone will think you’re weird because they’re too busy trying to get sloshed so they can forget about their fear of saturated fat and cholesterol. they’re drinking to build up the courage to eat that fatty crunchy delicious slab of porcine goodness that they know is extremely bad for them. but then alcohol lowers inhibitions you see…

  42. Yup, i went to Insomia a couple of times. I don’t recall eating any crispy pata though. We’d go there for drinks, and crispy pata definitely goes with rice. :)

    I’ll check out Luce, i think i can find the place. This could be a serious challenge to tumba tumba.

    It’s been a while since Tumba Tumba closed that branch of theirs but they still operate their main branch. Tumba Tumba is not a fancy restaurant or bar, it’s one of those small karaoke bars. I remember two of my friends eating one crispy pata each! We usually just order and pick it up. The thing about their crispy pata is, apart from tasting good, is the skin stays crunchier compared to some popular restos. Also, this is one crispy pata that is tender to the bone. So far, that is the only crispy pata i know that is crunchy on the outside and really tender on the inside.

    Thanks for the tip gonzo, i’ll be sure to try that!

    Sorry about going off topic MM!

  43. I am curious to try Ramon Lee’s Fried Chicken. I saw it featured on TV. Anybody knows where it is located? Is it good?

  44. Speaking of MAX’s Restaurant. I really don’t know why till now I miss all their food.Almost 2 years now I never forget the taste of fried chicken,crispypata,fresh lumpia,fried lumpia their desserts oH my goodness I hope I can go home now in the Philippines.

  45. Try this out, whole chicken, rub an ample amount of salt on it, put it on a turbo broiler. set the timer for 20 mins…. happy days! just like maxchicken

  46. Try 1/2 tsp. Chinese five spice, some minced garlic and MSG – stay overnight or 30 hours. Then deep fry!

  47. After an absence of many years I went back to Manila and indulged one of my childhood favourites -Max Chicken. I remember when they first opened, in Quezon City. The owner, called Max, used to wander around his establishment unobtrusively, making sure everyone was satisfied. The story was that he was a cook in a Southern USA kitchen for some years, before he came back home to offer us his version.
    Like Marketman,I was surprized at the smallness of the large chicken – it was the same size as the “spring chicken’ portion in the old days. Over time, some things tend to shrink in the Philippines, like Pan de Sal. The taste is still the same and every morsel was equally tasty, so I wonder if the chicken is brined before cooking. The temperature of the cooking fat must be crucial, as there were crispy parts on the outside, but it was so moist on the inside.
    I never ever ate it with any sauce, and it was as enjoyable an experience as I remember. I regretted not being able to try it again before my departure.

  48. I discovered Max’s secret recipe via Pinoy Food Blog. The trick is steaming the chicken for around 30 minutes, deep fry until light brown, remove from heat, cool, then deep-fry again. I can now enjoy Max’s chicken at home without the aggravation over prize and size!

  49. All these years, I thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve lived with this once-twice a year addiction that I’ve quite shamefully shared with my daughter. Our dirty little secret, Max’s and spam. But, Marketman, you’ve put it so eloquently. But I don’t see getting over my “dependence” anytime soon.

  50. Does anyone know if the Seven Sisters of Bacoor Cavite fried chicken recipe has passed on to another restaurant? I would say it was better than Max’s Fried chicken. It was somewhat similar to the Ibu Suharti’s or Mbok Berek’s fried chicken of Jakarta and Yogyakarta.



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