Chicken broth is universally recognized as being restorative. So when I am out like a light and the cook asks what I would like to eat for lunch, the automatic response is either chicken tinola or chicken arroz caldo. We eat this at least once a month, without illness, and I never tire of it. This version is a little more pungent and flavorful than a classic tinola that is more gentle and light, but with your tastebuds numbed by illness, it is the perfect antidote to the blahs…
First we brown some chicken parts in a heavy enamel coated iron pot. We only had chicken parts on this occasion so we did legs, wings and thighs. Otherwise, break down a whole small chicken and brown those parts in two batches.
Remove the chicken parts, and saute some garlic, onions, lots of ginger, lemongrass, the white part of leeks until softened and aromatic. Add a touch of fish sauce at this point, then return the chicken parts and add water (or better yet, a light homemade chicken stock with little salt).
Adjust fish sauce, season with salt (if necessary) and pepper and let this simmer for 10-15 minutes or so. Taste to ensure it’s just right.
Prepare lots of unripe papaya and a few minutes before sitting down to the table, add the papaya to the pot and let it cook until just softened. I always wondered who was the brilliant first cook who thought to cook raw papaya and pair it with chili leaves, but perhaps the explanation is as simple as a disgruntled cook who thought she had a ripe papaya and when it turned out to be hard and green, she threw it into a pot of chicken soup instead, liking the unlikely results…
We also add lots of chili leaves in our version, better still if a couple of little unripe chilies are included for a bit of heat. Serve hot. I can eat this just by itself, or if you prefer the full-on experience, with lots and lots of steamed rice and a dipping sauce of fresh lime juice with fish sauce in case you still can’t taste anything through that fog of sickness. :)