Two days ago, my wife turned thirty two and I prepared something I knew she would love right on her natal day. I was cooking a traditional Filipino dish called “tinolang manok” or Filipino style chicken soup. Tinolang manok, by the way, is an original Filipino main dish and best complimented with lemongrass, green papaya wedges, malunggay leaves, ginger, onion, and bell pepper.
During her previous birthdays, while we’re still residing in the city, we always ended up dining in expensive restaurants which were, to some extent, quite boring already. Now that we’re on our fourth month of living in the province, it would be special, I thought, if I’m going to make it province-like, with all its simplicity and plainness without sacrificing quality and intent. Sure, some restaurants in the city serve tinolang manok but what’s making my chicken tinola really special was the fact that I’m the one cooking it.
Tinolang manok is a comfort food for me and my wife and yes, even our three-year-old son also loved the way it tasted. I really liked the way our adorable Nathaniel sniffed something from the air, with matching closed eyes, each time a tinola is served on the table. And, suddenly, as he opened wide his eyes, exclaimed, “Wow, sarap” which means delicious in English.
I would be crushing the softened chicken meat on his plate so it would be easier for him to chew and then mixed it up with rice and soup. This simple authentic Filipino dish is highly nutritious my toddler would surely benefit a lot from. Moringga, which is one of the ingredients and grows abundantly almost everywhere in the Philippines, is considered by many as a superfood.
It’s very simple to prepare or cook but the dish itself is full of nutrition not to mention the fact that the ingredients I’ve used were all organic. In case you’d like to know how to cook the Filipino chicken tinola, you may follow the simple cooking instructions below:
For the ingredients, you’ll need:
- One kilo whole chicken, cut/sliced into pieces/preferred sizes.
- Two pieces medium-sized ginger crushed or sliced into strips.
- Three medium-sized bell peppers sliced into strips.
- Five stems of lemongrass.
- One small unripe papaya or, if there are no available papaya, chayote cut into smaller pieces.
- One plate of malunggay (Moringa) leaves.
- One and a half liter of water.
- One medium-sized red onion, diced.
- Five tablespoons edible/cooking or olive oil.
- Six garlic cloves, minced.
- One and a half tablespoons of salt.
How to cook:
- In a large and deep pan, heat oil and saute garlic, then the bell pepper, followed by the onion and ginger.
- Add the water and the lemongrass.
- Bring to a boil before adding the chicken.
- Simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
- Add the salt.
- Add papaya or chayote. Continue to simmer for four minutes or until the papaya softens. Be careful to not overcook it, though.
- Add the malunggay leaves. Turn off the fire or heat.
- Serve steaming hot on a glass bowl with plain rice on the side.
After we have eaten our lunch, we remain seated for orange juice and a small talk. “So what’s your birthday wish, darling?” I asked my wife. “That from now on, each time I celebrate my natal day should be as special as this one because you had not only given me your time in the first place, but for cooking my favorite dish as well,” she said. Before I could utter a word, a burp escaped my lips. That should be saying Happy Birthday, sweetheart.