Life can’t be lived in terms of what inspires you in the Chicken Soup series. After all, a whole discussion over lunch can revolve around what makes a proper tinola.
There’s really nothing to tinola except fresh ingredients and simmering (not boiling: that’s the easiest way to kill the flavor of any dish), but tinola is only as good as what you put in it. Over lunch today, there was an interesting debate on what should go into this veritable chicken soup. Papaya or sayote? Malunggay or sili? Like any recipe, you’ll find a great defense of what is combined into tinola, or what is omitted from it.
Every chicken-eating culture in the world has a recipe for barbecued chicken, and every mall in the Philippines has an inasal restaurant. Chicken inasal is the Big Mac of Pinoy dishes; there’s no shortage of inasal in the Philippines that claim to offer a “taste of Bacolod.” The term “authentic” can be a selling point or a marketing strategy; all too often, though, it’s just a collection of words.
Mang Inasal at SM Megamall is fairly easy to find, but like every restaurant that serves Filipino cuisine fast-food style, it’s a hit-and-miss. I was taught that inasal is a fairly simple yet flavorful combination of ingredients used to marinate barbecued chicken: calamansi, garlic, salt, sukang sasa, lemon grass, and annato oil. When this blend of ingredients are turned into a prepackaged mixture that makes life in the restaurant kitchen easier, you pretty much end up with a dish that tastes more like chicken tocino than authentic chicken inasal.