Tinola with a twist

I hate repeating myself but let me confess here that I didn’t really cook until I got here to New York 6 years ago.  For Alan and me, it was a matter of survival.  It was also a way to cope with the boredom of staying home my first 6 months here while waiting for my work permit.  I would walk to the Barnes and Noble behind our apartment complex and scan gourmet magazines and find something fairly simple and manageable in terms of ingredients, because there was a Waldbaum’s (something like Unimart here) a hop, skip and a jump away. 

I had to ask Mom to send me my Nora Daza Cookbook and then I bought a half dozen or so Pinoy cookbooks when I went home for my first visit in 2002, and I got the Gene Gonzalez series from my dear friend Gina. 

These days when I feel like whipping up something “traditional,” I run to the web to see the different variations and pick one which I think would be close to the dish I want to come up with.  I was spoiled with great homecooking from my Mom and my Aunts — good cooks every one of them — so even when we eat out, I tend to compare and end up missing what I had gotten so used to.

I found my Tinola recipe via google here but tweaked it to what you will find below.  While Tinola is slightly spicy traditionally, I had to work on making it blander because the intention was to cook something I could feed Angel as well.  So my greens are more for color and to add the “veggie” factor more than to add flavor or zing.  I used chayote because it was readily available (yes, even in the American groceries whereas unripe papaya is only available in Asian or Chinese groceries), and it was a vegetable I knew Angel was not allergic to.  (That’s the motherhood side of me overtaking the rational cook.. )  I also cooked it the way my Mom had told me to cook chicken being sauteed for use in a dish with lots of broth or soup.  (Specifically, add the patis while the chicken is sauteeing in onions, BEFORE adding the broth.)

1 kg (2-1/4 pounds) chicken, cut into serving portions
3 tbsp oil
4 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp ginger strips
2 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
2 pieces chayote cut into long slices

1/2 cup leafy vegetables (I picked a mix of romaine lettuce)
4-5 cups water


Sautè garlic, onion and ginger in oil. Add chicken and brown the sides, season with patis and continue to sautè for a few minutes. Add water. Bring to boil then cover and let simmer until meat is half-done. Add chayote and continue cooking until meat is done and vegetable is tender. Add greens and wait for the leaves to wilt and cook. Season to taste.