Coming into a new country, it was a challenge to find ingredients to some of my favourite Filipino dishes. One of these dishes is Chicken Tinola.
Chicken Tinola is a home cooking staple in the Philippines. It is a ginger and chicken based stew with chilli leaves and green papaya, usually eaten with steaming white rice – a perfect dish to have when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, or if you’re simply looking for a comforting meal.
Tinola away from home
Having moved into London, however, finding chilli leaves and green papaya is a bit of a challenge. Especially when you feel like having it spontaneously. I’ve also adapted to how they eat soups and stews here, which is usually enjoyed on its own rather than with a side. This is why I’ve decided to make my own variation of the classic dish. this one uses more readily available vegetables so that it is easier to find. This way there is also a bit more substance in the stew. It is perfect on cold evenings. Not to say that if I’m offered a traditional Tinola, I wouldn’t ask for a bowl of rice!
The thing about fusion food
I know some purists get really wound up by expats changing the recipe of a traditional dish, but when people migrate, their food does too. Did you know that in Italy there is no such thing as spaghetti and meatballs? American Italians invented them due to the availability of meat in America after fleeing from war-stricken Italy. Chicken Tikka Masala is a British invention, despite people thinking it is an Indian dish. No one actually knows who General Tso is and how he came about the chicken dish. It definitely isn’t Chinese!
Migration allows food to fuse into a new form because migrants take something classic and change it to suit the tastes of the people around them and the which ingredients are in abundance. I think it is a beautiful ode to their identity, actually. A mixture of past and present.
I digress. If you are looking for a classic tinola recipe, you could pretty much use the one below but change the spinach for chili leaves and the celery, courgettes and carrots into green papaya!
If you're missing Chicken Tinola but you can't find the ingredients in your hometown, here's a delicious variation that uses produce from your super parket!
- 600 g chicken thighs diced
- 750 mL chicken stock
- 2 medium cougettes diced (in the philippines, we use green papaya)
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1 handful spinach (originally we use chili leaves)
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 1 thumb ginger, cut into strips
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 green chili whole
- Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, and chicken til the chicken is a nice brown.
- Throw in the fish sauce and chilis
- Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for 30 mins.
- Throw in the celery, carrots and courgettes and cook until soft.
- Add the spinach.
- Season with salt and pepper
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