Kitchen Adventures: Tinolang Manok (Filipino chicken soup)

I have jumped over the hurdle that is tinolang manok! Granted, everything is a hurdle to me at this point because I am a beginner, but the mere fact that I finished it and it was delicious is amazing to me. I made it again a second time at Mikaius’ place, because he loved it – he says he prefers it to sinigang. Personally, I would much rather have sinigang na pork ribs, but whatever tastes good to you, tastes good to you!

I must have read through upwards of ten recipes and ingredient lists to get a sense of what was supposed to be happening. I knew how tinola was supposed to taste like, but I didn’t quite know how to get there. In the end, I think that the broth in my version came out a little heavier than I’m used to because I used potatoes, but it was damn close to how I remember it in my head!

My personal recipe is pretty sketchy, I’ll admit. But this life is an adventure, and here’s one of mine!

I used potatoes because I could not locate any green papaya, and lettuce instead of chili leaves. Ginger, julienned and minced, the mother of all that is wonderful and tinola-y. The magic trifecta: garlic, onion, tomato, all chopped extra fine. Fish sauce. Chicken thighs. I prefer using chicken thighs when I’m cooking – they’re so much more flavourful than chicken breasts. Of course, that could just be a bias.

If you’re wondering why I don’t have measurements, I have a confession to make. I have a habit of eyeballing things when it comes to both baking AND cooking. When I’m making food, I always just throw in whatever I can find in the cupboard that I think would go well with the base. It has worked for me so far, but I know it’ll bite me in the ass one day. I will say that it does make me feel like a superhero when my food comes out tasting wonderful, though.

I sautéed the ginger with what is considered the holy triumvirate of Filipino cooking: garlic, onion, and tomato. When it was all nice and aromatic, I carefully placed the chicken thighs skin side down in the pan, and the potatoes as well, and let them brown for a bit. After that, I added in about three to four cups of water and simmered it until the chicken and the potatoes were done, adding in fish sauce in small increments until the broth tasted like home.

Oh, man. The broth was ginger-y, the chicken tasted amazing, and the potatoes were done to perfection. I would have much preferred green papaya, as is traditional, in the place of potatoes, but them taters were pretty good replacements. I loved the depth that the fish sauce added to the broth – it made for a really delicious broth that would have been exactly what the doctor ordered if you had the flu. Mikaius called it the Filipino version of chicken soup, and I agree with him. My only issue was that I was using a smallish pot, and the potatoes also soaked up all the broth-y goodness, so I had less broth than what I was used to. On the plus side: tinola-flavoured potatoes!

One thing I absolutely love about Mikaius is how open he is to trying food from Filipino cuisine. He has no reservations about trying anything – he has tried all kinds of food, from pork blood stew to fish paste to isaw, and he has never flinched. And he is very open with what he likes and what he doesn’t, so whenever we cook together, we know where to go. When I made tinola, he added chili flakes. Would the same kick have been present  had I not forgotten the siling mahaba and added that into the broth? I don’t know, honestly, but I do know that next time I make it, I will be sure not to forget the dahon ng sili and the siling mahaba!

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