Chicken ‘Tinola’ with a Twist

chicken tinola

Chicken ‘tinola’ is a dish from the Philippines that’s akin to chicken soup popular in western countries. It’s a common comfort food that’s great to have during cool weather or if you have a cold.

The hot clear soup infused with the goodness of chicken is soothing to the throat and a balm to a grumbling stomach.

After developing colds due the changes in the weather expected this time of the year, I thought I’d turn to my favorite comfort food for some nourishment. Oh, and yes, this is one of the three dishes that I used to cook when I had bad insomnia attacks inthe past (background story here).

Before I even share the recipe, let me just explain something about this chicken dish. Chicken tinola usually calls for these basic ingredients — chicken, ginger, either green papaya or chayote, leaves of chili pepper, garlic, fish sauce, water. Some people, depending on the region and personal preference, may choose to add onion, black pepper, and some other vegetables such as potato and corn. It really depends. In our family, it’s usually the basic ingredients I’ve mentioned, plus onions and black pepper. Some would just boil the chicken from the get go with all the other ingredients, while others would saute the spices first.


So now, that I’ve explained the basics, let me now share how I’ve changed the recipe a bit. Perhaps some ‘purists’ will shake their heads and say, “No, no, no, that’s not tinola anymore.’ Or perhaps some, and I am guessing there are some regions in the Philippines that prepare this in a similar fashion, will find nothing wrong with it.

For this particular tinola dish, I simply added tomatoes. Firstly, I have a surplus of tomatoes that it’s a shame if I let them go to waste. Secondly, I love tomatoes. If you’ve noticed, most of the dishes I’ve shared here have tomatoes as ingredients. So I looked at the pretty red tomatoes that I have and I said to myself, “Hmmm, why not?” I’ve never cooked chicken tinola with tomatoes before, mind you. But the end result is quite satisfying. Again, as I don’t use exact measurements, below are approximations.


1/2 chicken, washed thoroughly and cut to pieces
water, enough to cover the chicken
green papaya, cut into small wedges
bok choi (substitute for chili pepper leaves)
1 knob of ginger, sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced
coriander leaves, chopped (you can use celery too)
2 cloves garlic, minced (more if you prefer)
fish sauce, according to taste
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. oil


Saute aromatics
1. Heat oil in a pan. Once it’s hot enough, saute the ginger slices, onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Add the coriander last.

2. Add in the chicken and saute for a couple of minutes before adding the water. Cover and let boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat and let it simmer until the chicken is quite tender.

Papaya and chicken
3. Add in the papaya slices and cover until it’s cooked.

Almost cooked
4. The last one that you need to add is the bok choi as it only takes a few minutes to cook. This is also the time when you need to add the fish sauce. The salt rounds out the taste so a pinch or two will do. By this time, too, you’ll note that the soup is now glistening with the fat from the chicken.

5. Once cooked, you can add some black peppercorn for extra flavor.

Voila, chicken tinola

This chicken tinola with the tomato twist is different in that it’s both slightly salty and tangy (with a teeny weeny hint of sweetness too from the tomatoes), with the piquant flavors of the other spices. It’s perfect with a plate of steamed rice and a dip of fish sauce with lemon and lots of crushed bird’s eye chili — the perfect dish on a cold or rainy day.


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