Friday, February 28, 2014

Chicken Tinola

Chicken TInola ServingI know I said that my last two stew posts were my favorite dish, and this next one is no exception. It may be my uber-fave. It has chicken, ginger, and green papaya. Where else can it go wrong. I am talking about Chicken Tinola.

I love this dish because I was a chicken addict when I was a kid. Anything chicken I would eat. I remember my Dad bringing home KFC and that was a big deal for me. Loved it (and I actually still do – I just do not eat it as much).

But again, I digress…

Green Papaya
Green Papaya - about the size of a small football
I rarely see tinola in the Filipino eateries around here., so again, I had no choice but make it. Since this was going to be a cold rainy weekend, it seemed appropriate to have something warming.

The challenge again was procurement, but unlike the Puchero, this requires less ingredients. The first time I made this, I tried to get green papaya at the Filipino supermarket (Seafood City) but they did not have it. I do not think they had hot pepper leaves as well… so off to Ranch 99 I go (Ranch 99 is another Asian super grocery store).

The first time I attempted to make this, Ranch 99 did not have green papaya. They did have unripe Hawaiian papaya which seemed to be a good substitute. The second time I made this they had Green Papaya from Mexico. It was meant to be.

Do not use ripe papaya: it needs to firm enough to simmer in broth. Ripe papaya will probably disintegrate (and would probably result in a weird sweet-salty flavor). Best to save the ripe papaya for dessert.

Darn, now I am craving for papaya.

You do need to cut the papaya into wedges. Hopefully the pictures below will help on how to do it.

Green Papaya - cross section
This is what it looks like inside. No seeds yet.

Green Papaya wedges
Wedgies! I do remove the white stuff on the inside where the seeds usually go.

I have seen recipes sing chayote squash instead. Although it will probably be yummy (I love Chayote too – as can be seen in my corn-chayote tacos), this is not tinola, at least not how I remember it. It’s the blend of the chicken, green papaya, and ginger that makes this dish rock.

The recipe in Panlasang Pinoy again served as a great base. Without it, I would not know that it used Hot Pepper leaves – the leaves! One can find it frozen in the Asian markets. I pretty much followed the recipe, but I used less fish sauce and salt than the original recipe for health reasons.

Hot Pepper Leaves
Thawing... these are frozen solid when bought.

Chicken Tinola Recipe

  • 1 lb Chicken thighs (about 4)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 pc small green papaya, cut into wedges
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 thumb ginger, cut into strips
  • 3 tsps fish sauce, divided
  • 1 packet hot pepper leaves, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Procedure
  1. Sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger.
  2. Season the chicken with some salt and pepper.
  3. Put-in the chicken, skin side first and 1 tsp of fish sauce. Cook until color turns light brown.
  4. Pour-in the water and the remaining fish oil and put to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. Add the green papaya wedges and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the hot pepper leaves.
  7. Add salt (or more fish oil) and pepper to taste (I usually just add pepper).
  8. Serve hot. Share and enjoy!

Chicken TInola Simmering
Simmering...Almost there.


I am so glad I made this dish. It is so good and perfect for a cold rainy day. Ginger seems to be the theme of these last two months, and I love the ginger flavor in this soup. Also the blend with the papaya and chicken really makes it.

Dare I say it…It brings back so many childhood memories. Definitely will be in our winter rotation. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Puchero, Filipino-style

I had a craving for Filipino-style Puchero the other day. This was one of the staples that my Grandmother did on Sundays and one of my favorites. Puchero is a type of stew composed of pork or chicken, sausage, vegetables, plantains, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes. The combination of different flavors gives this dish its unique flavor. The local Filipino eateries around here rarely make this, so I had no choice but make it.

Puchero Traditional-style
Puchero served traditional-style

Again, I found a recipe at Panlasang Pinoy that I can use as a base. The first time I made this, I asked my Tita (aunt) if it was close to what Grandma did and she said that Nana fried the bananas first, perhaps to get that caramelization and bring out the sweetness. As I’ve seen in the Food Network, I decided to treat each ingredient “with love” so I opted to pre-fry the sweet potatoes as well.

The missing ingredient is Chinese Sausage. I remember that this is one of the things that I ate first because I enjoyed its sweetness. The Pork Puchero did not use sausage though, but I remember Nana using this. I referred to the Chicken Puchero recipe on how to prepare it (again, it involved treating it with love and pre-frying).

Puchero Ingredients
Someday all of these would be stew
Buying Stuff. In this case, procurement was the challenge. I had to go to three different stores, four if you count our local grocery store to get my “normal” pantry items.

My first stop was Seafood City for the saba banana and bok choy. Seafood City is one of the few places, if not the only one, around here that one can get saba. One can use plantains, but it is not the same. This was actually my favorite part of this dish, so I added another half. Remember though… key to cooking is balance.

For the bok choy, I actually just bought some last night for my stir-fry, but I think we only have two leaves left. Plus, my husband said that he loves bok choy so I bought a whole bag. He can have bok choy for a week.

Next was Ranch 99 for Chinese Sausage and Sweet Potatoes. After looking at the price, I decided not to get Chinese sausage since the last time I made this, we did not finish the last package. I thought Aidell’s Chicken-Apple sausage would be a good substitute (and guaranteed to be finished). I actually also bought my fish sauce in Ranch 99, because Seafood City only had Filipino style fish sauce. I have heard once that if one prefers milder flavor, use Thai or Vietnamese style (It also has a bit of sugar).

Puchero cooking
The term "Puchero" was derived from the word "Stew Pot"
I also bought my pork here this time. I hesitated before, but a friend said the Ranch 99 has the freshest meat available. I bought stew meat this time to save money, but I’ve used pork tenderloin in the past. Panlasang Pinoy actually recommends using Pork Belly.

I also went to the Mexican market to get the garbanzo beans. Actually, I could have bought this at my local grocery store, but I prefer getting this at the market because it is more economical (and I can get tamales and menudo for lunch – since it will take a while for this to cook).

Last stop was to my local grocery store for basics and stuff that I missed: onion, garlic, (organic) tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  For some veggies, I prefer using organic to avoid pesticides.

One last note before the recipe: This actually takes a lot of preparation. I could not imagine my Grandma doing all this, but I do remember that she had some help (but it wasn’t from us grandkids – she preferred for us to study). It also takes some time to simmer, so allocate at least two hours.

Here’s what I have so far. Try it and let me know what you think.

Pork Filipino-Style Puchero
Based on the recipe from the Pork Pochero recipe from Panlasang Pinoy and some childhood memories

  • 1 lb pork stew meat, cubed, fat trimmed off, but do leave some.
  • 1 piece Chicken-Apple Sausage (I like sausage so I added another half. Also if available, use 3 pieces of Chinese Sausage, sliced thinly)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole pepper corn
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chick peas (garbanzos)
  • 1 large plaintain banana (ripe), sliced (if this is your favorite, you can add more)
  • 1/2 medium sized sweet potato, cubed
  • About 1/4 cabbage, sliced for consistency
  • 1/4 lb long green beans
  • 1 bunch bok choy
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 teaspoons of fish-sauce, divided (recommend Thai or Vietnamese-style)
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Heat cooking oil in a cooking pot. I used my Dutch oven.
  2. Fry the sweet potatoes and bananas. Remove from pot and Set aside.
  3. Fry the sausage. Remove from pot and Set aside.
  4. Sauté garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add some pepper and 1 tsp of fish sauce (for salt, to season)
  5. Season pork with pepper. Add pork to the pot and cook until the color turns light brown.
  6. Put-in remaining fish sauce, whole peppercorn, water, and tomato sauce. Stir.
  7. Add sweet potatoes, plantains, and chick peas. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Add cabbage and long green beans. Cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Stir-in the bok choy. Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
  10. Let the residual heat cook the bok choy (about 5 minutes).
  11. Serve with rice. Enjoy!


This recipe is very close to what my grandma did. To mind our sodium intake, mine used half of the fish sauce called for in the original recipe, but it tasted just right.  I think more may be too salty (I may still need to pay for it the next day with water retention).

My husband loves this dish. He hesitated with the bananas at first, but really enjoyed it. I probably should have used two.

Also, instead of white rice which is more typical in Filipino cuisine, I used a blend of brown rice and quinoa, just to get the extra fiber and protein.

Puchero with elevated presentation
Elevating my presentation

A challenge for me though is the ideal way to handle the peppercorns when cooking. The traditional way of making puchero is to have the peppercorns all over the dish. However, it is rather unpleasant when you bite into it. I may try it ground next time (and reduce the amount).

It is a bit mind blowing that the ingredients came from different cultures: Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and now with the quinoa, Peruvian. I am not sure where Chicken-Apple sausage originated (Italian? California?). In reading the Wikipedia article about Puchero, I did not realize that there are other types of Puchero in South American countries and Spain. This is truly an international dish.

I need to try out a slow-cooker version of this to perhaps make it easy for me. With that, I either have to half the recipe (or more) since I have a small crockpot: a project for another day.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mad About Minis: Mad Gourmet’s Single Serving Homemade Cheesecake

mini cheesecake cross-sectionOne of my husband’s favorite desserts is cheesecake. However, he rarely buys a slice because those slices can be huge and he (claims to be) watching his sugar intake.

Since I share his concerns, my mission then is to create a single-serve cheesecake that we can share. I researched (i.e. Googled), but the recipes only came close to my vision. I really wanted one that looked like a cheesecake: crust at the bottom, creamy cheesy goodness for the filling, and for one. That is not too much to ask is it?

I ended up combining some ideas and also doing some arithmetic. The result is below. Let me know what you think.

Mad Gourmet’s Mini Cheesecake
Based on a bunch of cheesecake recipes found in the web (... shall I say "Best of")


  • 4 crumbled vanilla wafers
  • 1 1/2 tsp of butter
  • 1/2 tsp of brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream or yogurt, preferably vanilla or plain
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice (or a few shavings of lemon zest)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla


Making the crust
  1. Crumble the wafers (I just use a ziploc bag to crumble to save on washing).
  2. Combine with butter, the remaining sugar, and salt (I even mix this in the bag).  
  3. Firmly press the crumb mixture into the ramekin.
  4. Bake for about 1 min to set the crust. Let cool.
  1. Pre-heat oven temp to 325 degrees (You can do this while making the crust).
  2. In your serving dish, ramekin, or mug, combine cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and yogurt (or sour cream).
  3. Mix together really well. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir.
  4. Pour filling over the crust to put it all together.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until sides firm up.
  6. Let cool in the refrigerator for at least four hours.
  7. If desired, serve with whipped cream.


My husband really enjoyed this cheesecake. This is actually my go-to recipe for cheesecake. I have made it several times and it’s a big hit. I am planning to make this for Valentine’s weekend for us, maybe with something red on top.

My husband said the only thing wrong with it was I needed to double it. I did try to double the filling once, but I think my ramekin was not big enough for it. The crust-to-filling ratio may also need some work.

Also, I’ve done some variations that are equally delicious. I varied the filling or the crust or both. Stay tuned… it’s worth it. I promise.

If cheesecake is not your thing, you can try my mini Chocolate-Strawberry Lava Cake.  Better yet, why not make both.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mad Gourmet's Filipino-Style Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Blogger’s Note: I really wanted to make January Soup and Stew Month, but our dining adventures kind of took over. As you can see from my twitter, I still cook and experiment at home. One good thing though… here in California, winter is just coming, so Soup and Stew Month continues.
Filipino-style Chicken Curry 
Another staple that my Mom cooked when I was a kid was Filipino-style Chicken Curry. I really looked forward to this dish, primarily because of the chicken. My mom said that I really loved chicken when I was young: chicken and fish.

I tried hard to look for chicken curry in Filipino eateries in the San Francisco Bay Area, but had no luck. The closest one that I found was in a Hawaiian-style eatery, but I think theirs is more Japanese-style (per my Japanese friend). With this gap, I decided to cook it myself… with one minor twist, I wanted to use my slow-cooker. I have been meaning to use it more. This looked like a great meal to leave in the crockpot before I go to work and have dinner ready when I arrive.

Unfortunately, we did not have a slow cooker when I was growing up, so I had no idea how to do it. Actually, I had no idea how to cook it at all. Since my mom does not remember how she cooked it, I had to search for ideas.

Chicken Curry in a pot
Panlasang Pinoy ("Filipino taste") had a great Chicken Curry. It did use coconut milk, which I do not remember my mom using (what do I know, I just ate it). Also, Martha Stewart had a good slow cooker chicken curry recipe (also using coconut milk). With this, I think I can get started.

I’ve actually made this several times already and loved the result. I have the put-it-all-together method and the staged method, so not to overcook the potatoes and the carrots. My crockpot only has one setting (cook). Although I do not remember it in Mom’s version, I also added red peppers. I really do not even like peppers, but it adds a layer of flavor to it.

Here’s what I have so far. Let me know what you think.

Mad Gourmet’s Filipino Style Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

  • 1 lbs chicken thighs (about 4)
  • 1/2 big potato, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped into squares
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped (about same amount as potato)
  • 1/2 thumb ginger, thinly cut into strips or 1.5 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced (it will mince in the slow cooker)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

Staged Method
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. In your slow cooker, toss chicken, water, onion, garlic, ginger, and curry powder to coat. Cover, cook chicken for about 3 hours, until the chicken is fork-tender, about 3 hours (do not uncover while cooking).
  3. After 3 hours, add potatoes, carrots, peppers, and coconut milk. Cook until tender (about 1 hour)
  4. After 1 hour, Stir in fish sauce cover, cook for 20 minutes.

Put-it-all together (almost)
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. In your slow cooker, toss chicken, water, onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes, carrots, peppers, coconut milk, and curry powder to coat. Cover, cook for about 4 hours.
  3. After cooking, Stir in fish sauce cover, cook for 20 minutes.


I think I came pretty close to my Mom’s chicken curry. Personally, I like staged version better since the veggies were not overcooked, but the set-it-and-forget-it version when were going out in the afternoon and have dinner ready when we get home.

I have to make this next time we had a potluck with my family. Hopefully, my Mom would give me more suggestions.