Monday, December 1, 2008

Tinola: Chicken With Ginger and Sili Leaves

This is one of my favorite dishes because not only is it very delicious, it is very comforting and nutritious as well. My mother would prepare this on weekends or rainy days and would make us children sip the broth while it’s still very warm. She also made me cook this on my own when I was in high school. It’s become my son’s favorite, too. Please feel free to use papaya instead of sayote. I just prefer the latter because we don’t have a papaya tree and sayote is a lot cheaper in the market.

4 chicken thighs
1 garlic clove
½ piece onion
1 sayote (or papaya)
1 bundle sili leaves
water, around 2 cups

Step 1: Prepare the chicken slices.
Wash the chicken pieces and drain. Remove the fat and skin if you want to cut on cholesterol. Sprinkle the meat with salt (this will help to bring out the flavor) and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the other ingredients.
Garlic: Crush with the heel of your palm against the side of the blade of your knife to crack the skin easily. Peel off the skin and cut the garlic into three pieces.

Onion: Peel off the skin and slice the onion.

Ginger: Cut off a ginger as big as your thumb. Wash and peel, then slice into thin but wide pieces. If you have a mortar and pestle (or dikdikan), place
the washed ginger slices in the mortar and pound several times with the pestle to crush it. This helps the juice to come out.

Sayote: Wash and cut off the top from the narrow end. Peel the rest of the sayote, then slice lengthwise into four pieces. Carve out and discard the core using a knife and cut into 1” long pieces.

Sili leaves: Soak in a bowl of salted water for 2 minutes to get rid of worms, if there are any. Rinse the whole bunch, then start picking the leaves, including only the soft stems and some fruits. Discard the tough stems and wash the leaves one more time. Drain and set aside.

Step 3: Cook the tinola
Heat your pot or wok over medium low fire. Pour around two tablespoons of cooking oil and heat for about one minute. Add the onions. Stir once in a while to prevent them from burning. When they’re limp, add the garlic and cook until you can smell its aroma. Don’t burn these because they will cause for the whole dish to taste bitter and no sugar can fix it. Then, add the ginger. As you heat the ginger, it will soak up the oil but it’s perfectly fine because there will be more than enough oil when you cook the chicken. When the ginger has softened a bit, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, and then cover with a lid. Cook over medium low heat until you see that the oil of the chicken has come out and the meat on both sides has started to become light brown. To prevent the garlic and onions from burning, I spoon them over the chicken while searing the meat. Chicken is cooked if clear fluid oozes out when pricked with a knife or fork.

Add the sayote pieces. Stir, cover, and heat through for two-three minutes. Remove the cover then add just enough water to cover the meat, around two cups. Cover again then boil. Cook over low heat until the sayote is done (you can pierce it with your fork or knife). Add the sili leaves and cook for one minute. Remove from heat then serve while hot. Makes 2- 3 servings.

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