Our Family's Traditional Tinolang (Chicken Ginger Soup)
Tinolang Manok is a Tagalog term for chicken-ginger soup sautéed with onions and garlic, simmered with vegetables like the leaves of malunggay (moringa) and siling labuyo (Filipino bird's eye chili), and flavored with sliced green papaya. It is seasoned with pepper, salt, and fish sauce.
Our Tinolang Manok using native chicken is everybody's favorite. My auntie only prepares this on special occasions because, in Manila, this native chicken is rare. Cooking our Tinola requires advance planning.
We also call it our traditional Tinolang Manok because everything is old-fashioned—from finding and buying the chicken (because we need to buy them alive) to preparing it the old way (when it was natural for women to learn how to slaughter a chicken for a family meal). In our family, only Aunt Mele can prepare a chicken that way.
During family gatherings, this is the superstar of the dining table because everybody just craves it.
A Philippine native chicken is known to have a naturally flavorful taste, much tastier than commercially bred chicken. It is never in a cage but just roams around the backyard of a house, usually in rural areas.
Native chicken is also more expensive, and we can't easily find it in the market or groceries. In our case (we're in Marikina), my cousins made a big-time effort to look for it. They even went as far as the Arrangue Market in Manila. Okay, I should not forget to mention that transporting it back home is agonizing because it's alive! My cousins have become "used" to that kind of sacrifice every year.
- Green papaya, sliced
- Chili leaves or pepper leaves (Dahon ng sili in Tagalog)
- Malunggay leaves
- Ginger, sliced thinly
- Fish sauce to taste
- Chicken cubes (not required, depends on your taste)
- Raw or uncooked rice, to be mixed with chicken blood and to be added in the broth while boiling
- In a sauce pan, heat oil. Saute garlic, onions, and ginger. Add chicken and cook 3 to 5 minutes until chicken turned white or half cooked.
- Pour in water or rice water (water collected from washing the rice). Bring to boil then simmer.
- Add the mixture of chicken blood and uncooked rice. Then add the green papaya.
- Continue simmering until the chicken and vegetables are tender.
- Season the soup with fish sauce, salt, and pepper (you can add the chicken cubes, not really required, but it depends on your taste).
- Add the pepper leaves and malunggay leaves.
- Cover and let simmer for 3 minutes or until the malunggay leaves and pepper leaves are cooked.
- Remove from heat and serve hot with fish sauce.
Cooking Tinola Using Earth Stove and Charcoal
We cook our Tinola the hard way because we have proven many times that the manner of cooking has something to do with the tenderness of the chicken and its distinctive taste.
We used the earth stove and charcoal, especially during the simmering part. Cooking tinola takes longer this way, and you need to be careful to maintain the fire by producing air manually using a fan (pamaypay in tagalog).
You may think we make our lives difficult just to serve this dish when we could easily go to big groceries and supermarkets to buy chicken and cook it on our gas range and double burner. But we are after the traditional taste that we love, and no matter how tired we are, nothing is better than the contentment that we see on the faces of our delighted family members when they eat this dish. Cooking Tiinola for us is more than cooking—it's also a labor of love.
Aunt Mele's Tinolang Native Chicken
© 2010 Maria Cecilia