Thursday, March 30, 2006

LP8 Paslit Edition: Tinolang Native na Manok

My eldest, three years old and about to enter preschool in June, loves to pull a chair to clamber onto so he could watch whenever I'm cooking. His sister, only a year old, loves to do that, too, only she cannot pull a chair yet and has a bit of a difficulty climbing onto our dining chair. She resorts to reaching out her arms to me so I could carry her and bring her near the stove so she could say ampetáng! (mainit! hot!), but which sounds only 'petáng!

Just after we wake up in the mornings my son takes out from its box his sister's plastic play kitchen and proceeds to slice with a plastic knife his doughed up clay, telling me to wait for the breakfast he is preparing for me.

As such, that is the extent of kid cooking in the house, which is the theme for this month's Lasang Pinoy, hosted by Iska at Edible Experiments. So I'm harking back to my childhood to tell of my own adventures in the kitchen.

Which, truth to tell, does not amount to much. I am one of those kids who never took to cooking - I was not interested, and seeing that, my mother didn't see any reason to kindle a flame inside of me. It was a chore I was exempted from, and I have to say I was happy, because that meant I was exempted from the marketing chores, too. I was more interested in other things, like eating what others cooked (so I loved going to parties), for one, and feeding to the cats and dogs the leftovers from our meals. And my mother let it go at that.

Little would she know how I would take to cooking later on in my life, sustained, and borne out of necessity, by my love for food and eating, and which benefits me so much now that I have a family of my own.

But back then, I only had stints in community/family food preparation activities, like rolling and forming rice dough into balls (bilo-bilo) for kinilér (ginataang halohalo/bilobilo). Or burying cashew pods under live coals, to later unearth and crack for the sweet, toasted nuts of malóko within. Or the backbreaking tasks of shelling cacao beans, pounding chocolate mixture and forming them into the native tsokoláte tabléas that my family was known for in our hometown.

I was sometimes asked to cook rice. I washed the rice until the water ran clear, and I could never get the right water level (I don't know if this has something to do with my long fingers? For non-Filipino readers, this relates to a time-honored Filipino practice of measuring water to put in a pot of rice by the finger joints), so the family ate rice that smelled burnt but remained uncooked, or too watery that my dad once thought we were having arroz caldo for dinner.

I was marked for that, and until now I always think I cannot cook rice properly so I ask my children's nannies to take care of it. Sometimes when I have no choice, salt on the rice pot lid and some mumbled prayers do miracles, but I think I just get lucky.

I remember, when we lived in my paternal grandparents' house, having a miniature set of clay cooking equipment, complete with a pot, a clay stove, some ladles, which could be used to cook food like the real thing (primitive though as it was, a pot and a clay stove used to be the only means to cook when I was a child, and we still have it now to cook food that has to have the taste of a woodfire, and requires clay cooking for even heat distribution).

I never was able to cook anything in my play set, of course, but my dad's cousins, who took care of the cooking in the house, once cooked a real tinola (chicken in broth and vegetables) with it. Of course it was just a cup of it.

In remembrance of that memory, and of my days of self-imposed ignorance, which could have had debilitating effects on my stature as wife to a socially active husband, and mother to growing kids, had I not found the necessity of cooking and the natural instinct to do so, I celebrate this month's Lasang Pinoy with tinola. The tinola cooked in my paternal grandparents' house during family Sunday dinners, using free-range chicken raised in the backyard.

I don't raise free-range chickens, but they can be bought at the public market, alive, every Wednesday and Sunday, the market days in my hometown. I have seen "organic" dressed chickens sold by Rustans, but at the price of P500/kilo, it's rather a laughable idea.

When buying native chicken alive (identified by, at the least, colored feathers), it is best to tie it in the backyard for a few days, feeding it just grains. This so it could expel anything it has eaten from the soil, cleansing its intestines, assuring that it won't be very malansa when cooked.

A dressed native chicken has tawny or yellowish skin, bonier than the commecially raised white leghorn (especially the drumstick), and often has unborn eggs. It is the best, the one and only chicken to use for me, for cooking tinola, because slow-cooking for hours renders its fat and brings out the full flavors from its well-exercised bones, making the broth incomparable in taste.

The medicinal taste sometimes found in commercial chickens can never be encountered in native chicken, and you are sure that you are not eating anything peppered with growth boosters and antibiotics and other synthetics from the time it hatched from its egg.

Cooking native chicken tinola requries a lot of ginger, and a pot full of water, wherein the chicken is boiled for about two to three hours. In a pressure cooker it can soften in about 30-45 minutes, up to one hour when it has already hatched many a batch of eggs (the chicken locally called "cull" in slang).

When the chicken is cooked the choice vegetables are added. For us it is peeled unripe papaya from the backyard, cut to thick cubes, halved potatoes and carrots, and some whole peppercorns for flavor. When the vegetables are almost done, young marunggay (malunggay, moringa olefeira) leaves plucked from the trees in front are added to the soup.

The chicken, and the vegetables, and the soup, make for a complete meal requiring nothing else but steaming hot rice (not cooked by me), and maybe some sweets afterwards. It is healthy fare, invigorating, cold-chasing, but best of all flavorful and a celebration of things growing around you.

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Anonymous said...

wow tinola! nyam! this too is one of my mom's her tinola so...likewise my kids too love mine!:)

Anonymous said...

i want a big bowl now!!! hi kai, i am nursing a cold and sore throat for a week now. so i really need that, ahhh miss ko na ito. we always cook free range chicken too, i especially like the atay and balun-balunan and drumstick. thanks for bringing me home

Anonymous said...

hi kai that's my comment above its me alilay

Anonymous said...

hi kai! reading your blog always bring me back to my own experiences including childhood memories... this time you brought me back to "bahay-bahayan" with my sisters, brothers and cousins. we also had those small cooking wares made of clay from palayok to kawali and laddles. i remember playing youngest son to the make-believe family of so many children. our eldest cousin was the mother and, hence, the one in-charge of the kitchen... one time, we all gathered around the litle kitchen of a make shift play house and watched her cooked biko, known locally in our place as "sinukmani." i don't know why, but it seemed the best biko i ever tasted in my life.

Marketmanila said...

Native or free-range chickens make far tastier broth than the commercially fed supermarket chickens!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can imagine how tasty your tinola is! :) I will have to hunt down some native chickens of my own!

Anonymous said...

Oh I had those clay cooking set as well when I was young. Me and my playmates even tried frying real food in it. I couldn't remember if they were edible though. LOL !

a said...

Hi Kai,

Tinola - my very comforting food...I tried the native chicken Tinola long time ago and I’ve got a little sore over my jaw but it’s delicious and taste is really quite different than the commercial chicken but for now I will have to stick to the one we have available in the supermarket and once I get back home, I will definitely ask my family for a native chicken Tinola ready…

Thanks for sharing as part of your LP 8 entry!

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

With all your wonderful posts especially about food like pinakbet, papaitan and this tinolang native na manok, I couldn't believe you weren't into cooking as a kid.

Thank you for sharing your story for LP8! and I also wish I would be able to taste this tinola in the near future….

kayli said...

hmmm. tinola, one of my fave. how much more if the main ingredient is native chicken. sarap nyan!!!

Anonymous said...

native chickens are the best, even the eggs!!! another treat that i miss. the organic free-range chickens here are yummier than conventional, but there's still something about pinoy chickens:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kai, this is a wonderful story. Maybe your kids can read this in future and write about how they played with the palayok when they grow up too. Very lovely. The tinola sounds so gooood. I remember vaguely the taste of the real native chicken. Here we have nothing but battery chicken.

Anonymous said...

tinola! we used to have that for sundays but then I hated native chicken because it takes forever to soften and be edible enough to munch. our version have papaya and dahong sili. our market then in daet only sells native chicken. now that its all tasteless chicken galore in the market, i suddenly hunker for dear old gamey chicken. My, how times have changed!

Anonymous said...

hahaha sa wakas natuto ka na rin

Lani said...

You know what Kai, hanggang ngayon di pa rin ako perfect sa pagsasaing (hehehe). It's really hard especially kapag bago ang bigas (nyek).

I love native chicken, too especially in sinampalukan. Worth it ang paghihintay sa tagal ng pagluluto.

I think Stef mas mataba ang mga worms dito kesa sa inyo kaya mas masarap ang free-range chicken dito sa atin (hehehe).

Marthy Ann said...

I love chicken Tinola, i make them myself, only thing is im a japanese, caucasian hawaii born mom/wife, My spouse is hawaiian mix nationality, I LOVE ALLLL of the phillipine foods, especially the fried silet!! YUUUMMM!!!

Marthy Ann said...

AWESOME DISH that chicken Tinola, very healthy and wonderful help for your body when you catch one flu or cold!!