24 Mar2006


Another all-time comfort food favorite in our home is “Pesang Manok” 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 low… 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 “pesa” meant or where it evolved from…

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 you… PESA also stands for Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration which apparently means a method of obtaining sperm non-surgically using a fine needle… Yikes, let’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 “plain boiled.” 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, “pesa” as a word refers to fish but when paired with “manok” refers to the boiled chicken soup. Isn’t that neat?

This is the simple pesa recipe we use in our household. pesa2Saute 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 don’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 chicken… 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.



  1. Bay_leaf says:

    MM, it’s after midnight here and i am hungry again! :) The hubby and i had dinner in a Thai restaurant earlier tonight, but a nice cup of that chicken soup would do anyone good.
    I’ll try to prepare it this weekend and try your chorizo version, usually i prepare it by adding a few strands of sotanghon.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 7:41 am


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  3. sha says:

    one of my fave food… but have not eaten with chorizo
    will do me good this one
    caught colds….

    Mar 24, 2006 | 7:45 am

  4. millet says:

    this is tinola, di ba? in our family, pag boiled fish, we call it pesa..pag chicken, tinola. nevertheless, the chorizo sounds like a great addition, making it almost like a “mini-puchero”. will try that. tinolang manok is my husband’s and my kids’ all-time favorite comfort food, hands-down.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 8:18 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Millet, our tinola is a little different. It has garlic, sili leaves, green papaya and you can use rice washings to give a little substance to the broth. The sili leaves and green papaya makes a noticeable difference to the tinola…

    Mar 24, 2006 | 8:42 am

  6. Kai says:

    This is our tinola in Pangasinan, without the chorizo and bay leaves. Although we call the variant with sili leaves and sayote fruit tinola, too, as long as it’s chicken. Native chicken, preferably. And with malunggay leaves.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 9:58 am

  7. khursten says:

    In our house, this would be nilagang manok. On the other hand, have you tried making this pesa dish with a rich sautee of miso, tomatoes, and onions? You season the miso paste with some patis and you use this mixture instead of just patis. A lovely new dimension. :3 So much love. Nice pictures!

    Mar 24, 2006 | 10:23 am

  8. rampau says:

    I rhought pesa was always fish until later when my Mom started making pesang baka. In our house it’s a style of cooking, no oil, just onions, ginger and patis. Never salt for pesa. Is that funny or what? Never heard of pesang manok which in your recipe is quite similar to tinola since you sauted it in garlic, ginger and onions. I love it that you referred to the late great Doreen Fernandez. Not only was she a great writer but an educator (memories from my years in Ateneo). I miss her so much!MM, you should continue her legacy by writing the food column in the Inquirer. There’s no one there that has taken her place yet. Think about it!

    Mar 24, 2006 | 10:35 am

  9. oscar says:

    What’s the difference between pesa and tinola?

    I think tinola uses papaya (or for some, chayote) unlike pesa. Not sure where the word tinola came from. I’m a purist when it comes to tinola because I want it with green papaya and not chayote. Papaya contains papain which softens the chicken meat (the reason why papaya fruit is also served in seminaries *daw*) and you can see the diff wrt “tinola” with chayote.

    I’m sometimes queasy with pesa because I only new nilagang baboy with the ingredients you mentioned, MM, but looks like chorizo gives it a different spin. Will try that.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 2:56 pm

  10. spanx says:


    do you use Marca El Rey Chorizo de Bilbao for your pesa, pochero, et al?

    when i want to reward myself,
    i make myself a decadent marca el rey “chorisilog”.

    catholic schoolboys must abstain from meat on Fridays.
    in that case,
    Pesang Dalag is a fine substitute.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 2:59 pm

  11. Mandy says:

    maybe pesang manok is a visayan thing? we always have this at home. also pesang porkchop. but i don’t like tinolang manok.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 11:55 pm

  12. Mandy says:

    i forgot to say,because my mom is cebuana, this is how we do pesa.

    Mar 24, 2006 | 11:56 pm

  13. Karen says:

    Interesting! I’m using the same article for something. :-)

    My mom’s been asking me to cook pesang bulig (dalag). In our town, pesa is strictly fish, ginger, pechay puso (bok choy) and potatoes. The soup has a handful of rice thrown in too.

    Chicken is an interesting twist for me.

    Mar 25, 2006 | 6:58 am

  14. maeli'i says:

    when I cook pesang isda or pesang manok, i make sure that i prepare the sauce that goes with it, “Miso” permented soybeans – sautéed in garlic, onions, tomatoes and the fermented soybeans. yummy to my tummy!!!

    Mar 25, 2006 | 3:09 pm

  15. millet says:

    MM, you’re right, i got confused there for a minute…tinola has sili leaves and papaya, and they make a world of difference…thanks for the clarification.

    Mar 25, 2006 | 3:26 pm

  16. jocelyn says:

    This is a nice soup!!!!!!

    Nov 19, 2008 | 9:16 pm


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