How amazing it is to be human. The things we disregard, the things we hold dear, the things we remember. I am now a forty-two-year-old woman who has gone through life, seen too much of life and yet, every time I cook a pot of tinolang manok, a memory from an already distant past can still grip my heart and tear it apart.
I was five years old when my parents separated, and soon after, my father began another family. On one of the irregular occasions we did visit him, we~my brothers, my father, his new wife and his then 2-year old son~gathered around the table for a lunch of chicken tinola. In the Philippines, or at least in our household, all edible parts of the fowl~liver, gizzards, neck and all, are used in the soup. As there is only ONE liver in chicken and it is considered the most nutritious, it’s usually given to the precious child of the house. When my father started to ladle our portions of the soup, I reached out for my bowl with a certainty that only comes from the naivety of a child that THE liver was in mine. Instead, my father, cooing as he did, plopped the coveted piece into his boy’s. I was too young then to explain the onslaught of tears, to even understand what I was crying about. All I remember was the desperate need to be back home at my mother’s house; my mother’s house where I would have been the ONE with the liver in her bowl.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 thumb-sized fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1 (3 to 4 pounds) whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 5 cups water
- 1 small green papaya, pared, seeded and cut into 2-inch wedges
- 1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, stems trimmed
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions, ginger and garlic and cook until limp and aromatic.
- Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes or until chicken starts to change color and juices run clear. Add fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add water and bring to a boil, skimming scum that float on top. Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Add papaya and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until tender yet crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Serve hot.