Tinowa a la Cebu – Two Ways

While I may not be a fan of malunggay (see previous post), I do tinowa1appreciate that millions of Filipinos may consider this leaf (and sometimes the pod) as a sort of “comfort food” that is not only familiar but highly economical. For most everyday cooking, an elaborate or multi-dish meal is an exception rather than the rule. The reality is that many want a hot, quick, nutritious and economical dish that is well paired with rice… and a soup with whatever is generally available (fish or meat) is a very practical and logical choice. Here are two soups that are nearly effortless to make, incorporate malunggay leaves and won’t break the bank… The first of two tinowa is a simple soup of water, leek, tomato, onion, salay-salay fish de-gutted but whole, salt and/or patis (fish sauce) and some malunggay leaves. Prep time was a minute or two, cooking time say 10-15 minutes. Cebuano tinowa (tinola, but Cebuanos seem to remove all of the l’s…) is far less flavored than dishes from the North…there is no tamarind, no lemon or lime, etc. Instead, the simplicity (and blandness) of boiled fish or chicken with the veggies and malunggay is what is sought.

In this second somewhat upscale tinowa, some tanglad (lemongrass) is boiledtinowa2 in water, tomatoes, onions, leeks are added, then some crushed shrimpheads (whole shrimp if you have it but can make the dish a bit more costly) salt and pepper and malunggay leaves. This is a bit stylized but essentially the spirit of a modest tinowa is maintained, despite the pricey prawns in this version. My grandmother used to make a soup with native chickens that had been boiling for a while (yet still seemed like rubber) that she then added malunggay to the broth. Others like to grill a large fish like tuna or tulingan (a close relative) and flake the oily meat into the soup. This is everyday comfort or fuel food, not typical fiesta fare… I tried it again tonight but it just doesn’t do it for me… maybe in another decade or so!


28 Responses

  1. I grew up in Cebu too but somehow I remember things differently. In our house everything that has malunggay in it is called utan, and invariable also contains agbate, green beans and other greens I can’t remember right now. Tinowa always connotes lots of water, tomatoes, onions and either sili leaves, green tamarind fruit and /or leaves or guavas. It usually has a clear broth and taste a bit sour.

  2. Marketman, you didn’t eat any vegetables except cukes until you spent a couple of summers in the US in you teens.
    Lola, and any other descendants of Lapu-lapu, would be horrified at your recipe with patis and tomatoes. Only salt, ginger and shallots flavoured any tinowa, whether, chicken or fish flavoured (subak) made by a native from Opon. Any vegetables were “utan” indeed. Kamunggay being her favourite.
    The most memorable lunchtime soup was the day Lolo refused Lola’s request for an increase in the market allowance. He came home, looked out the window at his prized imported Texas fighting cocks and asked where his favorite one was. Calmly ladling out the tinowa Lola replied” He’s in your soup”.

  3. These two soup recipes are by my crew from Toledo, Cebu. I didn’t have any of it, still don’t like the taste/texture of malunggay… I think just about anything was thrown into the pot but generally not sharp or salty in flavor except dried fish which makes a relatively salty soup…

  4. Tinowa is a great comfort food and i always ask for some whenever Manang Nilda, our adorable helper, prepares this food for their meal. Being a Cebuano myself, I grew up liking a lot of food stuffs that are originally distinct cebuano taste. Like cebu lechon, Aninicad shells, cebuano ngoyong, balbakua, cebu potchero and a lot more . Maybe MM you can highlight some of these in your coming posts.

  5. so interesting about the tomatoes! i only know the tagalog version. and what a story from your sister — i’m still chuckling.

    lojet, i’ve never heard of agbate, though i’ve heard of alugbati/alugbate. are they related?

  6. yayyy! that’s my all-time favorite, almost all dishes with kamunggay. say… tinunuang isda or utan with kamunggay, tinuwang isda with kamunggay, sarciadong isda with kamunggay. I can readily exchange them with your beef kaldereta. Too bad, kamunggay here in Manila are sold at P5 for 5 stalks or P1 each stalk. In my hometown, I could snatched it in my neighbors yard.

    hahahha! sister, I thought those tales are for laughs at radios. it’s real! i wonder, if your Lolo ate the tinuwa.

  7. Have been visiting your site and enjoying it in silence. But reading about tinowa brought something out of me. My father is Cebuano and my mother is Waray and they both like tinowa the same way…with tomatoes, onions salt, pepper and a good fish. When they indulge my tagalized palate, they will throw in a piece of batuan.

    Not all Visayans remove the ‘L” from their words. Go to Negros Oriental and other Cebuano-speaking provinces of Mindanao and find all the discarded “L”s there.

    More power and more food!

  8. wow comfort food again. i’m from cebu and the tinowa we always had aside from that with kamunggay is fresh mamsa or molmol with aninikad or lambay(alimasag)or some other exotic seashell that i can’t find here, kamatis,sibuyas bombay,sibuyas dahon and luya. heavenly soup! :-)parang bouillabaise bisaya style

  9. molly, I think everyone has their own slightly personal version… that’s what is nice about this dish. Choy, you are right, I changed Visayans to Cebuanos, a victim of generalizations or stereotypes… thanks for the comment! Adelle, I thought PHP5 for the kamunggay in the market was cheap na! Stefoodie, I think agbate is Cebuano short for alugbati!

  10. i am living in the United Kingdom and the one i missed so much is the tinolang isda with malunggay and alugbati,,i cannot changed it with all the foods here,,they are all processed and no fish like phillipines!i am always dreaming og malunngay soap!im a native from cebu..it makes me fell going back to philiipines..ang sarap ng lutong pinoy with malunggay!

  11. soRry folks..i mispell the words soup to soap..it seems i am eating now soap here in the uk because i dont like the foods…hahahah CHEERS!

  12. yummy!!! i miss the taste of cebuano utan with the fresh leafy vegetables like kamunggay and agbati. i grew up in talisay, cebu (yes, where the famous lechon is from) but im here now in US. we have an oriental store here but you wont find these delicious vegetables native to our country. my husband uses spinach as substitute for agbati but somehow theyre never the same. the rich texture of agbati is what makes it so different and yummy. and the kamunggay, wow! miss ko na talaga. the picture posted here does not do justice to its taste. but then, the picture will do for now for me….until i go home next year for a well-deserved vacation.

  13. Anybody knows if there is an English translation to “kamunngay”?

    Please share your knowledge. Thanks.

  14. indah, yes, the english translation is horseradish tree I believe, I have a separate post on “malunggay” the leaf in my archives…

  15. I’m here in california, usa-just having my soup with alugbate leaves. yes— i found a store selling alugbate leaves, saluyot malunggay, talbos ng kamote, kangkong and many other oriental vegetables. The store is HOAH Bin in pomona, ca. corner of holt avenue and indian hill. Pomona is in LA county. See you there!

  16. Hi , I am from Cebu,I live in West Los Angeles, I can’t find alugbate can somebody tell me the cambodian or english term for alugabte leaves.

  17. biboha ani uy. nangita ko uy malunggay sa google, ambot nganong pirmi ‘not found’. abi nako’g mas ilhan ang malunggay. kapila ko nag try wa man jud so i tried kamunggay. lo and behold, found several websites! lipaya nako uy. duha ra unta’y akong tuyo: iningglis ug scientific name sa kamunggay: i got the english name from this page. i may have to browse some more for the sn.

    by the way, my reason for looking for the sn of kamunggay was that an australian friend of my husband was asking how he would find it in cambodia because my husband suggested to him to take raw malunggay juice (he speaks tagalog) for a million reasons: mainly blood detox. we in the family do the juice at least twice a week since 2000. no cardiovascular problems since then.

    as we challenge especially male friends, “kung kainom ka’g tanduay, kainom kag kamunggay”.

    ayo ayo natong tanan

  18. tinola: the correct word.

    tino(w)a is spoken by urban folks (urban speaking mostly drops letter ‘l’ in a noun word)e.g kalayo (kayo) alugbate (agbate) kalamay (kamay) and it goes on and on. But, it tends to retain most of an adjective word, e.g ka-looy, kalisud, kaligdong. tinola is spoken from hinterland.

    my own recipe: use either fish or chicken, luy-a, sibuyas (dahon), sili (espada), og kamunggay (alernative-dahon sili). If you prefer peppersih, saute more sili-sington hasta imong bugan!

    By the way, kamunggay is a medicinal too. If you have small cut, warm a kamuggay leaves, squeeze and apply directly to the cut-it’s like tincture of iodine.

  19. Alugbate:

    As i mentioned in my earlier comments, Alugbate is spoken by hinterland folks in Cebu. Agabate is the urban word, it is spinach in english.

  20. Speaking of kamunggay, sa among bukid sa mindanao kay kalamunggay jud tawag ani, hahahaha! Lingawa nako oi, kay nangita sad ko sa english name ani kay naa ko dri San Jose CA and i want to buy this very nutritious green leafy vegetable… ako gi google bah, Moringa seems to be another “English” name for this. The use of the Moringa is popular also in India.. so mangyawat kos Indian store, basin naa pud ni….haay, i just remembered how when i a was little, used to crush the kamunggay leaves to dab the juice on cuts and bruises! Epektibo jud!

  21. hi Aveen Acuna-Gulo,
    tanong ko lng po totoo po bang fresh o raw o kakapitas palang n dahon ng malunggay pwede pong gawing juice? ang ginawa po kasi namin, dikdik namin yung malunggay lagay kmi ng konting tubig, tapos ung tubig nun ang iinumin? tama po ba?
    maraming salamat po.

  22. MM, ano an English han alugbate? ano an nutritional value han alugbate? duha man ka lain an alugbate, an usa puro green o yellow green, the other one, matipula or dark red, hain mas recommended ha duha? In leyte and samar i’ve noticed only this year that very few already cook and eat alugbate, and no red alugbate is seen in the markets. i am campaigning for green alugbate in samar. what are its uses? please email me your answers. thanks

  23. ako ay pinanganak sa manila at dito rin laki…..ang aking mga magulang ay bisaya kaya di kaila sa akin ang lasa at lutong bisaya…. gusto ko ang tnuwang isda, adobong baboy na maputla sa toyo at halos nagmamantika (pero may lasa yung mantika nya)sinabawang gulay o isda na may tanglad… mahilig din ako sa ginamos na may siling labuyo, sibuyas bumbay at konting sukang tuba ( halo ang humay at bigas na mais ang pinaka kanin)… kung minsan boating/fishing kami tapos pag may nahuling isda ay isawsaw lang namin sa baon naming suka at sabay nguya at pagkatapos ay iinom ng kalahating baso ng tuba…hehehe sarap talaga

  24. I’m from cebu but im here in australia now..for those who miss kamunggay so much…i think u can buy frozen packs of kamunggay leaves in any asian stores near you…or filipino stores…they mostly have all the products from pinas..i always have my utan kamunggay if i miss it.



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