Batten down the hatches. Looks like a storm’s coming.
I am sitting at my desk looking out of the window. This very spot is one of my favorites in our little flat. Perhaps that’s why it is exactly here where I decided, three years ago when we moved in, to locate my writing desk and laptop, facing this window, which looked out into the world. When you live in a flat in the middle of the city, as opposed to a house with a garden or somewhere in the countryside, you in your little cubbyhole and the “outside world” can sometimes feel a little disconnected. Buildings to the left and building to the right…and me, stuck in the middle. So a view, even a smallish, second-string view, that involves some greenery and the tiniest hint of openness, can be wondrous.
That view is now all gloomy skies and waving branches, the air heavy with the promise/threat of rain…although any water has yet to show itself. I am cozily ensconced inside, here in this my favorite spot, eating a snack of freshly baked bread from my favorite bakery, slathered with cream cheese and homemade mango jam made by my father. Typing away at the keyboard. Enjoying my view. Thinking that in a short bit I’m going to get up and get started on a pot of chicken tinola, our local chicken soup infused with ginger and cooked with malunggay (moringa) and chili leaves and unripe papaya. If the pregnant skies fulfill their promise, then it will indeed be the perfect night for a hot bowl of tinola.
And in these simple pleasures, I am happy and content. And I realize, once again, among the many times I’ve had this realization, that it really takes so little to make us happy. I hold on to this moment, filing it away for those times that may (will) come when I know I will doubt if it truly takes so little.
This isn’t a recipe for chicken tinola. That must wait until the day I manage to pin down specific quantities to a recipe that is mostly by feel. So I’ll leave you with this. Still very simple…in fact, it must take only 10 minutes to throw this together. A little bit more exotic than chicken tinola, to be sure, (except if you are not Filipino – then chicken tinola may seem, and rightfully so, exotic to you) but piled atop a generous bowl of steaming white rice, spoon in hand and looking out into the rain, this can be just as comforting.
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 dashes white pepper
- 300 grams boneless chicken thigh fillets, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
- 3 young leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced diagonally
- Mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, Chinese rice wine, cornstarch, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and white pepper. Add the chicken to this mixture and marinade for 15 minutes.
- Heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add about half of the oil. Add the chicken with the marinade to the pan and stir-fry until the chicken is browned on all sides (and the marinade thickens and coats the chicken). Remove from pan and set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in the pan, still over high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until aromatic. Return the chicken to the wok and toss until chicken is cooked through. Add the leeks and stir to combine. Take off the heat and serve.
Tip: If you want to add some more nutrition, add some peas (I use frozen peas that have been quickly blanched) to the pan when you add the chicken back in.
I adapted this recipe from Bee’s Mongolian Beef (which I have also made…to great success). I love her cookbook and can’t say enough about it. Although Chinese food is common over here, it is not something I can say I was ever fully confident enough to attempt in my own kitchen. Bee’s book has held my hand and made me believe I could.
The pavement outside is now dark and slick, and the rain that has since started has stopped for a bit, but I still feel blustery weather coming. As I listen to little C’s toy saxophone blowing somewhere in the apartment, followed by big C’s gruff chuckle, and the smell of ginger wafting through the air, I know I have all I need to weather any storm.