If we asked people in the Philippines to list their top Filipino dishes at this very moment, it’s highly probable that a good number of them would include chicken tinola. It’s not exactly as grand or memorable as say, adobo, sinigang, or kare-kare, but it’s definitely comfort food.
In general, a good chicken tinola is pretty easy to prepare. You’ll only need chicken, water, and up to two vegetables of your choice as main ingredients. Meanwhile, the cooking process merely involves steaming the meat in the water and mixing the rest of the components in. However, this still varies per region and style.
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“Manok na may tubig” argument
The simplicity in chicken tinola’s recipe also makes it prone to being associated with mediocrity. That’s why when Twitter user @joshgrn_ described it as a mere “manok na may tubig” in a now-viral tweet, some Filipinos actually agreed. “The words ‘good’ and ‘tinola’ do not belong in the same sentence, especially beside each other,” one of them said. Another replied saying that it’s “literally seasoned water”.
But there are more of them who roasted the netizen for simply not knowing how to cook tinola properly. “If you slow cook the chicken it will release the enzymes in its skin na antiviral. Parang chicken soup Pinoy version. Paturo ka ng tamang pagluto sa tinola para may lasa yung tinola mo,” Twitter user @alwaysThirty told @joshgrn_.
The argument has reached other social media platforms, and one of those who responded to the joshgrn_ was Erwan Heussaff, who describes himself as “a French-Filipino content creator with a passion for good food, travel, and fitness” in his official website’s biography.
“Some people were saying that this much-loved soup, tastes like water with chicken. I think those people need to cook better Tinola,” Heusaff said via Instagram. “In these times of uncertainty and frustration, over our current situation in the Philippines, focus your energy on what you can change and control. A bowl of soup never hurts either.”
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Erwan Heussaff’s chicken tinola
Along with those words, Heussaff uploaded a three-minute video of how he makes his chicken tinola, or “tee-know-la”, as he likes to pronounce it. There are only about seven ingredients: organic, free-range, or native chicken, ginger, garlic, chicken broth, salt, green papaya, and chili leaves or malunggay.
The cooking, on the other hand, merely takes about an hour. First, sear the chicken, then remove them once slightly brown. In the same pan, fry the ginger until they’re brown and really aromatic. Add the chicken back along with garlic.
Then, put in the chicken broth instead of typical faucet water. According to Heussaff, this will really balance out or intensify the flavours. After 40 minutes, add the salt, followed by green papaya instead of sayote or vegetable pear, among its many other English names because it’s just “so much better”. Leave for five minutes.
Finally, add the chili leaves or malunggay. In Heussaff’s video, he specifically used the latter. If you have lemongrass, you may also opt to add it in. Wait for another three minutes, then serve with rice. “Why anyone would call this chicken water is beyond me,” the French-Filipino chef said as he ended the video with him tasting the soup while eating the still-warm chicken with just his hands.
Featured image credit: Obsidian Soul | Wikimedia Commons