As Spring season is about to unfold in my part of the world, I can’t help but daydream of one of those precious moments I spent with my mother in her backyard while sipping on a fresh young coconut juice, or “buko” as we call it in Tagalog. I was a fresh college graduate then and haven’t fully figured what I wanted to do next, so I stayed with my parents for a while where all they did was pamper me with all good stuff like fresh buko juice, and the many ways to use it including an unforgettable dish my mother used to make. I remember how good it was so I thought I’d reinvent it in my kitchen today.
Fun times. Just plain fun times with my parents…
If only it’s that easy to fly back to my parents’ house and have some of those same good stuff again. What a sheer delight it would be. And if you are trying to guess what I am going to say next, you are right. I will say, I wish my mother is still alive. But do not overthink it. I am fine. I miss her every day and these thoughts are nothing new. I love to remember and think about her and all the good times we shared together.
But let’s go back to that unforgettable dish she cooked for me while I was vacationing with them after my college graduation. It isn’t summer here in the States yet so I do not know why I was dreaming of buko juice already. I guess, like everyone else are, I am also excited that winter is over and the temperature is slowly going up. Spring is here, and it is refreshing like sipping a fresh buko juice. So to satisfy my craving for it, I thought I’d make some chicken stew in coconut juice. Note that coconut juice is different from coconut milk. This chicken stew I made tonight is popularly known as “Tinola” in the Philippines, which is basically a ginger stew. The only difference with mine is the use of coconut juice instead of water. Every sip of its blended juices and the tenderness of the chicken cooked in it is pure delight and it made me feel like I was transported back to my mother’s backyard, relaxing in the hammock that my father made for her with a fresh coconut juice in my hand.
Her memories live on. And my heart is healed every day. I am thankful beyond words for all the things she gave me and did for me. And it is my joy to share such good stuff with you. So here is the recipe for her Ginataang Tinola, which I actually just named it only now. I wanted to blog about it and had to think of a name for this dish, so there you go.
2 lbs of cut up chicken – you may use chicken tenders if you prefer
Some slices of ginger – here we go again. You know I do not measure so estimate well.
Oil for sautéing
Fish sauce – make sure to estimate well, probably about 1/8 of a cup is good enough. You can replace it with salt if you prefer salt but fish sauce gives a richer taste.
Cut up sayote or chayote found in most Mexican produce stores
Carrots – my Ma did not use carrots in this dish. I just happen to have some leftovers in my vegetable bin that I want to get rid of already so might as well add it to the equation. It turned out good as it added color to the whole dish. So I guess we can say, this was the reinvention part of it. J
Chili leaves or dahon ng sili – if you have it, or you can use malunggay or spinach.
2-3 cups of coconut juice – thank God there are canned coconut juices sold in some major groceries here in Chicago. I use about 2 cans of it.
Saute garlic and onions in oil. You know the rule, when the onions are a little translucent, you’re ready to add the next ingredient. Add the ginger and stir for about a minute. Add the chicken cut ups and saute for about 5 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Add the coconut juice and simmer for about half an hour or until chicken are a little bit tender. Add the sayote and season with fish sauce or salt. All carrots. Simmer until vegetables are cooked. Add chili leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Serve with rice.