Chicken Tinola, Filipino Chicken Ginger Soup

05. March 2009 Chicken, Soups, Stocks + Sauces 2

Tinola, or Filipino chicken ginger soup, is one dish that I don’t make often. When I was growing up in Manila in the, ahem, 80s, my father brought the farm from his hometown of Ilocos Sur with him. We had a backyard with a small fish pond and a chicken coop. Each week, we would either have paksiw, or fish soup with ginger, or tinola. Every Sunday, our family lunch consisted of a freshly-slaughtered chicken, all innards included, in a big pot of steaming soup.

Traditionally, tinola uses green papaya and the leaves from a Thai chili plant. For the sake of making it easier here in New York, I use chayote, which is readily available in Harlem, and watercress, which is plentiful in Chinatown. I’ve given you a recipe that calls for fish sauce, but salt will do just fine especially if your mother is allergic to fish. You can also use spinach salad leaves instead of watercress.

We still stay in that house whenever we go back to the motherland, but it has changed so much I can’t imagine that it used to have a guava tree and a large mango trunk out back, too. Twenty or so years later, the spirit that comes with eating tinola with the family is still there, no matter what vegetable I substitute.

4 pieces of chicken back, some with skin on
2 finger-size gingers, peeled, sliced
3 chayotes, peeled, seeded, cubed
2 bunches watercress
1 small onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
fish sauce

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat some oil. Brown chicken pieces, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from pot and set aside.
2. In the same pot, add a little more oil. Sauté garlic until light brown, ginger until fragrant and onions until soft. Add the chicken pieces back and add a few jiggers of fish sauce. Cook for 3 minutes or enough for the chicken to absorb the fish sauce essence.
3. Add 3 cups of water with the chayote and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and chayotes are tender. Season with a few more jiggers of fish sauce. The broth should be gingery with a little bit of saltiness to it. Turn off the heat when done and submerge the watercress. The remaining heat should be enough to cook the watercress.

Related post/s:
Sinigang, Filipino sour soup recipe
Paksiw, Filipino vinegar soup recipe

2 thoughts on “Chicken Tinola, Filipino Chicken Ginger Soup”

  • 1
    Aquamog on May 6, 2009

    Gee I found this page at a bad time….when I’m hungry! This looks great. Thanks for the guide. I am going to print it out and see if I can make it this week.

  • 2
    Jane@fortunacooks on October 24, 2009

    Hi there, just happen to see a familiar dish in your blog. This dish is actually one of my favorites; the soup itself is mouth watering. I don’t like eating that much rice, but when my mom makes this dish my appetite just go for 3 cups. Chayote adds up to this tasty treat, I like it’s sweet taste getting on my buds. I haven’t found the time to learn this dish, but thanks for your list, I might try this at home.

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