Learning how to cook Pinoy food starts with the basics; that is, recipes that Filipinos prepare and eat on a regular basis. One of the dishes you’ll often seen on the table of a Pinoy household is chicken tinola. This Pinoy recipe is one of the easiest ones to make out there. But because of its simplicity, it’s also very easy to get wrong, which is why some people, even Filipinos, sometimes think that it’s tasteless. But chicken tinola that doesn’t have any flavor is probably one that was prepared incorrectly. Done right, chicken tinola is a clean-tasting, gingery soup that has a distinct meaty richness from from-scratch chicken broth.
Pepper.ph, a Pinoy cooking resource from the Philippines, has developed an in-depth, tried-and-tested chicken tinola recipe that makes the dish truly shine—giving it the recognition it deserves as a hearty chicken soup for the soul. Read on for some notes on how to make it.
What is Chicken Tinola?
Chicken tinola is a simple Filipino chicken soup that’s flavored with aromatics. To make it, you simply boil chicken and aromatics together, then add other key ingredients such as papaya, sayote (chayote), and malunggay. Flavor it with fish sauce (which you can leave out and have people add to their liking later on), then it’s ready to serve!
You can eat chicken tinola as is, but it’s commonly served with hot rice.
What Makes the Best Chicken Tinola?
What sets the best chicken tinola recipe apart from others lies in the ingredients and technique that go into making it. Sure, everything’s pretty straightforward. But, as Pepper.ph’s thorough research discovered, there are tricks that you can follow to ensure that you get a rich chickeny broth, a clear and clean-tasting soup, and a mix of ingredients that shine without overpowering each other.
Using a Whole Chicken
The first mistake you can make when cooking chicken tinola is using just a specific cut of chicken. Breasts make it tasteless; thighs give it a one-dimensional flavor. What you should do, then, is use a whole chicken, sliced into cuts fit for tinola (aka “tinola-cut,” which you can ask any butcher or market vendor to cut for you).
Cutting the Aromatics into Chunks
We’re used to mincing or chopping aromatics into small pieces. But the smaller your garlic, ginger, etc. are, the more cloudy they make a broth. Cutting them into chunks, instead, makes it easier to build a clear soup that’s still flavorful (adding them whole robs you off flavor because it prevents the aromatics from releasing their juice).
Adding Sayote instead of Papaya
There’s a debate going on about whether papaya or sayote is better for tinola. And although most people do go the papaya route, sayote may be better because it provides a subtle sweetness and texture that doesn’t overpower the rist of the dish versus papaya that tends to bring an overwhelming flavor.
To know how to put all of these tricks together and make the best chicken tinola (and to learn more about how to cook Filipino food, Filipino recipes, and Filipino cooking in general), visit Pepper.ph!