I spent last weekend at my parents' house. Whenever my sisters or I come home, we always put in requests for dinner. When Jenny was in college and I was still a high schooler living at home, my requests didn't quite matter as much. If I wanted kare-kare, I would have to wait until my sister came home the next weekend because she would likely be wanting that dish. Vegetable lumpia? Nilaga? Palabok? Wait 'til your sister comes home.
It got a bit frustrating. But once I moved out, it was my turn. And I take full advantage. Because let's face it: Favorite foods just aren't the same unless they're cooked in Mom and Dad's kitchen by Mom or Dad. Last Saturday, it was chicken tinola by Dad.
Tinola is all about the chayote and the broth. The chicken doesn't even matter to me. I even like the dish cooked with mussels instead of chicken, which is how I usually make it -- just for a change, since I eat chicken so much anyway. But seriously, I would be content with simply a bowl of chayote and tinola broth.
Chayote has a very mild flavor that doesn't really contribute to tinola's overall taste -- I think the loads of fresh ginger takes care of that part. It's the texture, really. Kind of like cooked apples. But not as soft.
In the Philippines, my parents used papaya instead of chayote, and this time my Dad used both. I had a few bites of papaya and confidently declared chayote the better ingredient. Its skin is tough and when peeled, the chayote is a slippery sucker. I always have to be careful to not peel chayote over the garbage, since the damn thing could easily slip from my hands like a bar of wet soap and tumble into the hot mess below. And after lightly gripping the chayote, it leaves a dry, sticky, filmy feel on the hands. Kind of gross. But it's worth it. Tinola just isn't tinola without the chayote. Sometimes my parents use broccoli instead, and it just doesn't compare.
Jenny and I always thought the chayote looks like an old lady with no teeth? Or maybe that's just our weird imaginations...
Dad also added green bell peppers and pepper leaves, fresh from the garden. Served over steaming rice, of course.
It was a hot and comforting meal, and just thinking about it on this cold, dreary Friday makes me crave a big bowl of it to warm my hands, my mouth, my insides, my fingertips, my toes...