A simple dish with very few ingredients. But the flavor and aroma are sensational. To get the best results, there are a few tricks to follow.
First, the chicken. Use bone-in chicken. Free-range, if you can get one because free-range chicken makes the most flavorful broth.
Second, green papaya. It’s unripe papaya that’s still green. The flesh is firm rather than soft and just perfect to be used as a vegetable.
Third, you have to exert some effort in making the flavor base. Saute ginger and shallots, stirring occasionally, until the ginger deepens in color and the edges of the shallot slices are a deep brown. You want caramelization to set in because that means both a deeper flavor and a richer color.
Fourth, brown the chicken. Once the ginger and shallot slices are sufficiently sauteed, add the chicken. Leave to brown the undersides then stir. Continue cooking, with occasional stirring, until the chicken skin is golden in color.
Fifth, season with fish sauce. Not salt, please. Use fish sauce. Let the chicken soak up the sauce before pouring in water to make the broth. Yes, water is okay when using bone-in chicken. The simmering will draw out the flavor of the bird and, by the time the tinola is cooked, you’ll have the equivalent of chicken bone broth.
While the chicken simmers, peel the green papaya, scrape off and discard the seeds, then cut the flesh into wedges. When the chicken is tender, stir in the green papaya wedges, cover the pan and continue simmering until the green papaya can be pierced with a fork without resistance.
With both the chicken and papaya done, the last thing you’ll need to add is chili leaves. Just drop them into the bowl, press down with spatula, cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the chili leaves wilt in the residual heat for five minutes.
Why not simmer the chili leaves with the chicken and green papaya? Because heating chili leaves for an extended period of time makes them bitter. So, let them cook with the heat off to get the best out of them.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot.
- Saute the shallots and ginger until they start to brown.
- Add the chicken pieces and cook in the hot oil until the skin is golden brown.
- Drizzle in a quarter cup of fish sauce.
- Continue cooking, with occasional stirring, until the chicken has soaked up the fish sauce.
- Pour in enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the green papaya, bring to boil once more, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for ten to 15 minutes, or until tender.
- Turn off the heat. Taste the broth. Season with more fish sauce if necessary.
- Drop the chili leaves, press into the broth, cover the pot and leave for five minutes.