I am sitting at my desk, typing this while a tropical downpour rages outside. I have always assumed that tropical raindrops are bigger than those in the West, whether that is fact or not, I do not know. The sound of rain on the galvanized iron roof has always been comforting for me, as long as there aren’t any leaks dripping water on me… During the rainy season, I love having hot and comforting soup, and this is one of m all-time favorites, first featured over two years ago. I couldn’t get myself to make an authentic pinikpikan, so this is my more politically correct version… enjoy!
I started out trying make or approximate a real â€œpinikpikanâ€ soup from the Mountain Provinces. Forget it. Just the cursory research had me reading in increasing horror the method for properly â€œbeatingâ€ a live native chicken with a stick while holding it over an open flame with its feathers and all. Essentially, as I understand it, the gentle breaking of blood vessels while you are burning off its feathers makes for a succulent, bloody, tasty bird that then flavors the broth of the soup. The charred skin with all remnants of burned feathers gone provides a unique flavor. Yikes. I have absolutely nothing against the concept of different cultures having different foods, I personally just couldnâ€™t do this method of bird abuse and grilling. I can barely fathom the thought of twisting a chickenâ€™s neck if I had to kill one myself (easier for me to run it over at 80 kph on a provincial road) let alone hold it down on an open flame while it squirms and screams bloody murder! Hmmâ€¦now thatâ€™s an idea perfectly tailored for an unethical and intrusive telemarketer. And I will be the first to admit a good pinikpikan does truly taste really good. So now what? I decided to take some of the base ingredients of a pinikpikan and improvise â€“ and the surprising result was a simply superb Ham and Chicken Soup a la Marketman, sans fowl torture tactics.
This soup was extremely good, a 9.50 out of 10 in my opinion, biased and all. First make the soup stock by filling a medium pot Â½ full of water and adding the bones of one majestic ham or similar ham. The bones are sold at Majestic ham counters for roughly PHP50-60 (a bargain!). Add two stalks of celery chopped into big pieces, one large slice of ginger and one whole white onion chopped coarsely. Add two knorr chicken cubes (horrible, I know, what? Marketman uses instant cubes?, just bear with meâ€¦) and simmer this for about an hour and a half until a nice broth is obtained. Strain this soup and return the broth to the pot and heat it up. Meanwhile, roast a whole chicken until it develops a nice dark brown skin, or if pressed for time, rush over to Pricesmart or a grocery that sells whole chicken from their rotisserie! I used a Pricesmart chicken, the darkest most burnt one I could find, and cut it up and left out only the yuckiest bone parts and dark muck inside the cavity. Put chicken parts into the soup, add one stalk of chopped celery and let it return to a boil. Add one peeled and sliced sayote, about 200 grams of sliced ham (I used Majestic since I got the bones there), chopped in large pieces and add some salt and pepper to taste. Not too much salt as the ham and bones can be salty. Then when you are just minutes to serving the soup, add two handfuls of watercress and maybe 20 pechay leaves and cook for just a minute or so before serving.
The soup was delicious! The broth was medium brown and relatively clear. The instant cubes were well masked by the stronger flavor of the ham bones. The chicken and ham were tasty and substantial, the sayote a nice foil to the saltier meats. The greens were vibrant as they were just barely cooked and added stunning color to the overall dish. This had salty, sweet, meat, vegetable â€“ yum! Served with a bowl of steamed rice it was a perfect rainy day meal. This recipe would easily serve 6 with large portions or 8 with medium sized portions. Total cost was about PHP500: PHP200 for ham bones and sliced ham, PHP200 for Pricesmart chicken, PHP70 for vegetables (try and use imported celery, itâ€™s better) and PHP 30 for gas and water and depreciation on my equipment. Assuming 6 huge portions, that would only be about PHP83 per person. Not bad, huh? Try it, you will definitely use this recipe again and again.