Moringa Chicken Soup (Chicken Tinola with Malunggay)

The last time I ate moringa was at least 30 years ago back in the Philippines. But I never knew that this plant is loaded with nutrients too many to list, that it’s now dubbed as the ‘miracle tree’. I remember when I was growing up, whenever we needed some moringa leaves for this dish, my grandmother simply sent the house help to go to the nearby farm which was just across the street,  to pick some moringa branches. I am so glad to find that this tree is widely grown as a backyard plant here in South Florida. We now have one growing in our backyard. Back in New York, though frozen moringa is available in Filipino food stores, I find it  convenient and healthier to simply use fresh baby spinach or the young leaves of the pepper plant which is a staple in our summer vegetable garden.

And today I learned something new. We went to an Indian restaurant for brunch with our Indian friend and guess what they had on the buffet selections,  a soup with the moringa pods.  I didn’t know that the moringa pod is edible (but why wouldn’t it if the leaves are?). Our friend said that in India, it is called the vegetarian chicken because eating it is like eating chicken around the bone.

These are the ingredients for this dish:

  •    1 lb cut-up chicken pieces. I usually get a whole chicken but reserve the breast for another dish.
  •    2-3 pieces of chayote. In the absence of chayote, zucchini can be used. Cut in spears.
  •    2 cups of moringa leaves
  •    1 small onion, sliced
  •    5 cloves of garlic, minced
  •    3 quarter size slices of ginger, pound with the edge of a knife
  •    2-3 pieces of Thai green pepper
  •    2 tsp sea salt or 2-3 T Patis or fish sauce
  •    freshly ground pepper
  •   1 T oil
  •  1 qt water

In a deep pot, heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger until medium brown, then add the onion. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and let it saute for about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the chayote or zucchini and the Thai peppers, let it saute for  an additional 2 minutes, then add 1 quart of water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. When the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender, add the moringa leaves, cover and turn off the stove. The moringa leaves will continue to cook in the covered pan.

Filipinos always eat rice with this dish and we like to season the chicken as we eat. So we make a dipping sauce by mixing a little fish sauce, a piece of the cooked Thai pepper and  juice of 1/2 lemon.


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