Tinola has been the subject of much debate online on whether it deserves to stay on the list of Filipinos’ all-time faves. But while it’s considered as comfort food for some or a reminder of home for others, what exactly makes tinola a good dish?
It’s been a go-to in many households because of its fast, easy, and flexible recipe.
Tinola’s ingredients can easily be swapped to adjust with what is available in the household. Papaya and sayote are interchangeable, the leaves for flavorings may either be malunggay or dahon ng sili, and patis (fish sauce) or salt are even added as a final mix for some.
Is recipe the issue or something else?
Food vloggers Ninong Ry and Vanjo Merano of Panlasang Pinoy pitched in why they think this issue over tinola isn’t and shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Merano runs the Panlasang Pinoy blog and Youtube channel from his home in Chicago. He has been writing about Filipino dishes for over a decade and now also vlogs about the same.
Ninong Ry, having met big success since launching on Youtube in 2020, has been a known Filipino food vlogger as well. He graduated with a culinary degree and is now garnering millions of views on the digital platform.
They both said that this shouldn’t be the case and that Tinola deserves to keep its place.
“Napansin ko dito sa tinola, sobrang konti ng ingredients niya so dapat of higher quality lahat… Love language kasi ‘yang pagluluto,” Ninong Ry said.
(“I noticed that since Tinola only has a few ingredients, they must be all of higher quality. Cooking is a love language,” Ninong Ry said.)
Panlasang Pinoy chimed in by saying that it’s all about finding the right way to cook the dish. It all boils down to cooking the classic tinola dish the way it’s supposed to be.
“Sabi nung isa, bland daw ‘yung tinola. Sabi naman nung isa ‘yung tinola daw ay parang tubig lang na nilagyan ng seasoning. At ‘yung isa pa sabi, ‘trash’ daw ‘yung tinola. Kung mahilig ka daw sa tinola, wala ka raw taste buds o panlasa,” he said in his vlog.
“Sandali lang ha. Baka lang ‘yung nagluto ng tinola nila, hindi lang nagbigay ng pagmamahal sa pagluluto,” he added.
(“One said that Tinola is bland. Another said that it tasted like water with seasoning. There was also one who said that Tinola is trash. If you like Tinola, the presumption is that you don’t have good taste buds,” he said in his vlog.
“Maybe those who cook for these people do not add love in their cooking,” he added.)
The many ways to cook tinola
For his recipe, he used one whole chicken, green papaya, malunggay leaves, hot pepper leaves, ginger, onion, garlic, rice washing, fish sauce, cooking oil, and one Knorr Chicken cube.
He then asked Ninong Ry how he makes his tinola dish.
In Ninong Ry’s separate vlog, he said that it’s all a matter of what ingredients you put in to make the dish. He then showed how to make three different versions of tinola.
The first version he made was more traditional. While ingredients may be interchanged, he said that he prefers making it with papaya and dahon ng sili.
He also said that he adds Knorr Chicken Broth Cubes to seal the taste, and prefers this instead of just salt.
From the classic tinola’s broth, he then proceeded to show the next two variations.
Ninong Ry cooked Hainanese chicken rice tinola, a fusion of two famous Asian dishes. By boiling the chicken then incorporating the traditional steps in making Hainanese rice with the tinola broth, a new dish was created.
The last iteration was the tinola risotto, a modernized version inspired by the well-loved Italian rice dish.
Tinola can be loved either in its classic form or by mixing it with modern cuisines. It’s all about pushing the dish forward while acknowledging why it was so beloved in the first place.
What’s your favorite version? Try one or two of these ways to cook tinola and see if you’ll find a new reason to love this Filipino classic.