Another all-time comfort food favorite in our home is â€œPesang Manokâ€ or boiled chicken soup. As with almost any chicken broth based soup, there is something incredibly soothing and restorative about it, something homey and bound-to-make-you-feel-better regardless of what ails you. It could be a cold or bout of flu, or sometimes, when you are just feeling lowâ€¦ Pesang Manok with rice is basic, delicious, and memorable. As with many dishes, it also varies slightly from home to home. Until I decided to feature this simple yet satisfying dish, it never really occurred to me to wonder what â€œpesaâ€ meant or where it evolved fromâ€¦
A quick Google search yielded a definition which was definitely not what I was looking for but so amusing I thought I would share it with youâ€¦ PESA also stands for Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration which apparently means a method of obtaining sperm non-surgically using a fine needleâ€¦ Yikes, letâ€™s not go there, shall we??!? At any rate, a little more searching yielded a wonderful article on/by Doreen Fernandez from the NYU archives that explained the term pesa as being derived from the Hokkien term where it means â€œplain boiled.â€ Apparently it is only used to refer to boiled fish but later in the Philippines evolved into including chicken, which is the version I actually grew up with and thus prefer. Ms. Fernandez goes on to write more that in Pilipino, â€œpesaâ€ as a word refers to fish but when paired with â€œmanokâ€ refers to the boiled chicken soup. Isnâ€™t that neat?
This is the simple pesa recipe we use in our household. Saute some nice large slices of ginger and large chunks of onion in some vegetable oil. Once fragrant, add a whole chicken to the pot and take care to stir the veggies about so they donâ€™t burn. Brown the chicken a bit on all sides to get some of that terrific flavor from the caramelization of the skin. Cover with water and add the peppercorns and bay leaves. Boil for roughly 30 minutes and add some chopped peeled potatoes. Cook a bit more and when the chicken is cooked add some cabbage or bok choy and it is ready to go. Add patis, salt and pepper to taste. In our house, we add some chorizo bilbao that is sliced thinly. This serves to add a flavor punch to what could otherwise be described as being a bit too plain boiled chickenâ€¦ The chorizo also releases its oils and to me, makes the dish visually more appealing. Depending on my mood, this is great eaten separately (broth first, then contents with rice) or you can put everything in a bowl, add the rice and eat it all together! Serve with patis and kalamansi on the side.