Chicken Tinola (Tinolang Manok)

Sit still, don’t get up! said Capitan Tiago, placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder.  This fiesta is for the special purpose of giving thanks to the Virgin for your safe arrival.  Oy! Bring on the tinola!  I ordered tinola as you doubtless have not tasted any for so long a time.

Too bad I didn’t have an actual tureen 😂

A large steaming tureen was brought in.  The Dominican, after muttering the benedicite, to which scarcely anyone knew how to respond, began to serve the contents.  But whether from carelessness or other cause, Padre Damaso received a plate in which a bare neck and a tough wing of chicken floated about in a large quantity of soup amid lumps of papaya, while the others were eating legs and breasts, especially Ibarra, to whose lot fell the second joints.  Observing all this, the Franciscan mashed up some pieces of papaya, barely tasted the soup, dropped his spoon noisily, and roughly pushed his plate away. (Chapter 3: The Dinner. Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal 1887)

We just celebrated the Philippine Independence Day last June 12, and I thought of cooking a Filipino dish within this coming week. I decided to cook Chicken Tinola (Tinolang Manok), because of its significance in being part of a book that inspired the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish Colonizers. Chicken Tinola is one of the iconic dishes in Filipino Literature. It was mentioned in “Noli Me Tangere”, the first book that Jose Rizal (the Philippine National Hero) wrote during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. I never forgot this scene because one of the antagonists in the book, Padre Damaso really held a grudge over that bowl of soup, and more, as we discover later on. The book continued further showing oppression, and the suffering of the Filipinos under Spanish rule.

The offensive bowl of Chicken Tinola: Padre Damaso was accidentally served

This is actually one of my favorite dishes even if it is quite simple. Every time I have it, I feel like my soul is enveloped in a comforting culinary hug, especially when I am sick.

It’s easy to make, there are only a couple of ingredients Some of the components of the dish is quite similar to Hainanese Chicken, but the cooking method is different since the chicken is kept in the soup. The soup has deep flavors of the chicken, accompanied by the fragrance of the ginger and garlic.

This dish requires the use of a small green papaya–or a papaya that is not yet ripe. it should feel quite hard when you touch its exterior and when you slice it open, its color is green and the texture would be like the Chayote’s texture. Coincidentally, if green papaya is not available, Chayote is the best substitute for this dish.

This is how your green papaya should look when you open it up. It also should feel quite tough.

Chicken Tinola (Tinolang Manok)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Happy Philippine Independence Day!


  • 1 whole chicken cut into serving pieces (about 1-2 kilograms in weight)
  • 1 small green papaya (Not ripe!), cut into wedges. (In case this isn’t available, 1 ½ cups of Chayote cut into wedges.)
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced thinly.
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ thumb of ginger, julienned
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 cup of bird’s eye chili leaves or malunggay leaves. If you don’t have these, spinach leaves would do.
  • 6-8 cups of water/rice washing*
  • 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Optional:
    •  ½ chicken bouillon cube (Knorr, or otherwise) and or;
    • ½ cup chicken bone broth, or 2 tablespoons chicken bone broth essence


  1. In a large pot Saute the onions and ginger until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add in the garlic and saute the garlic until they are fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken pieces into the pot and season with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce.  Let cook for 5 minutes or until the color is light brown.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, use a flat ladle to remove the scum from the soup. Then lower the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. If you are using free-range chicken, or native chicken, simmer the chicken for longer (around 45 minutes to an hour) to allow the chicken to soften.
  5. Add the papaya and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce into the soup and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. At this point, you can also taste if the flavor is right—the soup should only have a mild flavor of saltiness.
  6. Add the chili leaves/malunggay leaves and turn off the heat from the stove.
  7. Serve with rice on the side and some fish sauce as a dipping sauce for the chicken (the latter is optional).

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