Ever since we moved to our small two-bedroom condo unit and had to let go of our househelp (she still comes in once a week to help us with laundry and cleaning), I’ve had to learn how to cook. I can’t rely on my mother to do all our cooking since she has a day job of her own, and that would just be too much to ask, especially since I’m also an adult and need to pull my own weight in this household.
I’m not talking simple fare like sauteeing onions before pouring canned corned beef into the pan, or frying hotdogs and eggs. I’m also not talking about making waffles and pancakes from scratch. I knew how to do those things before we moved here. I’m referring to real, home-cooked dishes, slow-boiled in a pot and seasoned to taste.
My parents never asked me to start cooking; I thought of doing so on my own. I think it was in August last year when I decided to make myself some chicken tinola because I wasn’t feeling well and wanted soup. After a false start accidentally burning the ginger, I started again with fresh ginger, and it was a success! I got even sicker the next day and was thankful for the tinola leftovers because I didn’t have appetite for much else.
For me, the key to being a good cook is the ability to cook a delicious dish many times without the taste varying between each batch. So a few weeks ago, I cooked tinola again and it turned out even better than it did the first time!
If you haven’t tried cooking this simple dish, here’s the recipe I always use. It’s pretty lazy since it doesn’t have amounts or cooking times. I cook by feel, mostly.
- chicken parts
- ginger, diced
- onion, diced
- sayote, sliced into chunks
- Patis or fish sauce, to taste (usually 4 tablespoons)
Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside. In a pot, sautee the ginger and onion together in a bit of oil until the onions become translucent.
Add the chicken to the pot, frying until all sides are lightly browned. Add water (enough to cover the chicken), then season with patis. Cover and allow to come to a boil, then bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Skim scum off if you like a clearer broth. Test if the chicken is done by spearing the parts with a fork down to their centers; juices should run clear.
Add the sayote and taste the broth. Adjust the flavor with patis if the broth tastes too much like the sayote. Continue to simmer until the sayote can be cut with a spoon (this shouldn’t take too long).
Serve with hot rice. Kain na!