Growing up with Filipino food, I am naturally a big fan of the yummy delights that filled my growing up years in Manila. However, since leaving the Philippines almost 13 years ago, I don't get my fill of Pinoy food. Unlike many Asian cuisines, you see, Filipino food isn't as accessible as, say, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, or Korean food.
A lot of the dishes are either a bit "too exotic" or too similar with other cuisines. That's why Filipino restaurants aren't very common in many countries overseas, unless there's a huge number of Filipinos or Philippine-heritage citizens in the area.
That's why it took a while for my British husband to get used to the idea of eating Filipino food. Sure, he's taken to lechon and inihaw easily because they are basically just roasts or deep-fried meat. He loves lechon manok (roast chicken), just as much as he loves any of his favourite Sunday roast meal from his childhood.
When I first cooked Chicken Tinola (a soup-based chicken dish) for the hubby in our first year of marriage, he wasn't too crazy about it. So, I never cooked it again for him. And, basically, I ended up hardly ever cooking it at all.
A few years later, we attended a pot luck dinner party with a group of Filipinos in Australia. And, one of the couples brought a Chicken Tinola dish. The husband devoured it. Yes, even if it had fish sauce (he often refused to eat anything with a hint of fish sauce). Told everyone he loved it.
I was indignant because I said that I once cooked it for him and he said he didn't like it. He was adamant that he certainly liked that Tinola.
Then, we ended up figuring the main difference: I used sayote (aka chayote or pear squash, amongst other names), as that was one of the ways I cooked it back in Manila. However, the Tinola he loved used the alternative vegetable instead: green papaya (aka green pawpaw).
Since then, I started tweaking the Chicken Tinola recipe that I grew up with into something the husband would love. In fact, something that he now considers as one of his favourite dishes.
Both the kids have fallen in love with this dish too. The boy says Chicken Tinola is his third favourite dish (next to roast chicken and roast pork; yep, he loves his roasts). And, the girl claims this is her favourite dish, even beating lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese (yes, she loves her pasta).
So, here is my version of Chicken Tinola:
Filipinos often love to eat Chicken Tinola with a condiment. Some prefer soy sauce. But, I love it with fish sauce and chopped fresh chili.
This meal is perfect for cold or rainy days. But, since it has become a family favourite, we have it all year round. It usually makes it to our menu every 3-4 weeks.
Many say that Filipino food is an acquired taste or something that you have to grow up with. But, I hope you enjoy this as much as my family does.
As an aside, sharing this recipe is a much-delayed response to Yvonne Russell's request to share a favourite Asian dish two years ago.
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.