Tinolang Manok: ginger chicken stew with spinach and papaya

I’m back home from my trip to Atlanta, trying to eliminate the massive sleep debt I’d accumulated over the past two weeks! There are also hundreds of photos to sift through and quite a few pages of restaurant observations to decipher from my little notebook. While I get that sorted out, here’s a recipe handed down from my mother’s side that should assuage Bruce’s craving for something soupy.

Chicken tinola

Tinolang Manok (Chicken Tinola)

The Filipino idea of soup is a little different from Western notions. Nearly everything, including our soups and stews, are eaten on a bed of steamed rice. We throw ingredients into a giant pot, let it simmer for a good long while in its liquid, and then attempt to eat the stewy or brothy mess on a flat plate using only a fork and spoon. Don’t bother asking for a knife—the meat should already be falling off the bone, as intended.

This recipe is one of the quicker ones: under an hour from prep to finish, serving 4 comfortably or a couple with baon (leftovers) for the next day. If green / unripe papaya is difficult to find, a couple of chayotes works fine. We have also tried it with ripe papaya in the summer months. Doing so does change the flavour profile quite a bit, but you may enjoy the colour contrast and additional sweetness that ripe fruit will lend to the broth.

Chicken tinola: ingredients


  • 8 – 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 2-inch-long piece of ginger, sliced wide and thin
  • 1 bunch or bag of spinach
  • 1 green papaya, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)


  1. Sweat the ginger and onion over medium-low heat until the onion goes translucent. Raise heat to high. Add chicken and saute until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add patis and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat down; cover and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 20 – 30 minutes.
  3. Add papaya and simmer another 10 minutes or until soft.
  4. Taste the broth. Is it seasoned enough? If not, add more patis to taste.
  5. Turn off heat. Stir in spinach, covering until ready to serve over steamed white rice.

To be extra Filipino, make individual dips of patis and Tabasco for each place setting, spooning a little bit of the dip on your spoonful before it enters your mouth.

5 Replies to “Tinolang Manok: ginger chicken stew with spinach and papaya”

  1. I had this recently at my parents’ house. Perfect for a chilly day. I prefer chayote in mine, but probably because that’s what I grew up with.

    Love your food photos…delicious!

  2. Finally got around to trying this recipe on the weekend. Made the ripe papaya variation as we couldn’t find any green papaya at the grocery store.

    The thought in mind was to make enough to have leftovers for the next day, but the pot was empty before the end of the night.

    Will have to try it again soon once green papayas are back in season!

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