Taste of Manila Chicken Tinola
Although tinola looks like the kind of soup you might enjoy as an appetizer, it is served in the Philippines as a main dish. The chicken and vegetables are eaten which the broth is sipped. This chunky soup is made with chicken, green papaya and usually either malunggay or chili leaves, although if you cannot find those you can omit them. The strongest flavor in the soup is the ginger.
We are using chicken thighs and you can use the boneless, skinless kind or bone-in if you prefer. You can also use skin-on ones if you do not mind the fact the skin goes soggy when you simmer the chicken rather than crispy when you use a dry heat to cook it. The mulunggay leaves should be available from an Asian food market. These leaves can be eaten in salads, as greens or you can add them to soups. The flowers from this plant can be cooked and fried in batter. We are also adding onion, garlic and fish sauce to our chicken tinola.
This is very simple to make and it does not take long either. If you wish to tweak the recipe, try bok choy instead of the mulunggay or chili, or use chayote squash instead of the green papaya (if you cannot find it where you live). Some Filipino cooks use ‘sili leaves’ (pepper leaves) as the green while others have a family recipe for chicken tinola calling for bok choy, while you might prefer to omit them entirely and just focus on the chicken, papaya and spice flavors in the dish. It is completely up to you. Some Westerners even add spinach but the spinach flavor is considered rather heavy for the dish.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups sliced yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1½ lbs boneless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 cups green papaya, in 1-inch cubes
- 4 cups water
- 8 cherry tomatoes (optional)
- 3 cups de-stemmed malunggay leaves, chili leaves or chopped bok choy (optional)
- Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onion until translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until lightly browned.
- Now add the chicken and fish sauce.
- Cook for 3 minutes or until the chicken is golden.
- Add the papaya and water.
- Add the cherry tomatoes too, if using.
- Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the papaya is tender and the chicken is cooked through.
- Turn the heat off.
- Stir in the malunggay or chili leaves, or the bok choy, if using, cover the pot and wait 2 minutes, then serve.
Filipino tinola soup is a popular meal in the Philippines. The boldest flavors in there are the chicken, green papaya and the fresh ginger, while many cook like to add malunggay or chili leaves too. Here we are keeping the recipe simple, adding garlic and fish sauce for exotic flavor accents, and using skin-on chicken thighs in the recipe. This is a one-pot meal. You need to cook the onion and spices first, then add the chicken and other ingredients and simmer until everything is tender and aromatic. Serve this soup hot for lunch or dinner.
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