Ever since our Filipina nanny Kareen first made us this dish, tinolang manok, we’ve been hooked. She makes it in the same way that her father taught her: she starts by using the best possible chicken and the freshest ginger and lemongrass to create an intensely fragrant chicken soup base. After adding vegetables of vibrant green, orange and white hues, she simmers this tinolang manok until its delicious aroma fills up our entire house. Served over white rice, this concoction soothes the stomach and warms the winter-weary soul. Filipino penicillin.
The dish has a special place in the hearts of Filipinos, as it is mentioned in "Noli Me Tangere," the first novel of José Rizal, one of the greatest revolutionary heroes of the Philippines. In that novel, Kapitan Tiago served ginger soup to Crisostomo Ibarra upon his arrival from Europe. Ibarra was given the best part of the chicken, the breast; the corrupt Spanish friar Padre Damaso received the neck, the least favored part.
Whole chicken, cut into small pieces
2 quarts water
Lemongrass, cut into 4 pieces
2 entire ginger roots, peeled and thickly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 chayote squash (or 1 green papaya)
A few green onions
1 lb. baby bok choy, cut into quarters
Ginger powder, pepper, and salt to taste
Put the chicken pieces in a large pot with two quarts of water. (Be sure to leave the bones in; they add great flavor.) Add the lemongrass pieces and sliced ginger to the broth. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Boil the rice.
Peel the chayotes, cut them in half and remove the white seed in the middle. Cut the chayote into pieces. Wash and chop up the green onion. Add carrots, chayote (or green papaya), green onion and baby bok choy to the broth. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add ginger powder, salt and pepper to taste. (In the Philippines, the bones are left in the soup. Feel free to remove them before eating the soup.) Remove the lemongrass (and the ginger slices, if you don't wish to eat them). Serve over a small mound of white rice.