Asian American Mothers and Postpartum Food Traditions: A Recipe for Chicken Tinola

May 13, 2011

Chicken Tinola with rice. Photo by Damien Maloney.


For Hyphen's Bittersweet Issue, I wrote a feature story called "Motherhood Rooted," which explores postpartum practices among Asian and Pacific Islander women in the US. Most women who abide by traditional postpartum practices -- whether they have roots in Asia, Latin America or indigenous cultures -- follow a period of roughly four to six weeks after giving birth in which they are homebound and cared for by family members.

While researching the story and talking with moms, I realized that almost every culture has a special diet after giving birth. Sometimes it's for healing purposes, sometimes the dishes are high in protein, and sometimes they are meant to help with lactation ... or sometimes, all of the above!

Here is a recipe for a postpartum dish, this one a Filipino specialty. Lisa Juachon, one of the moms I interviewed for the postpartum feature story, shared her recipe for Chicken Tinola. Special thanks to R.J. Lozada, who prepared the Chicken Tinola dish pictured above.

Chicken Tinola

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons sliced ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil or whatever oil you have
1/2 of a large young papaya, cut into cubes -- if papaya is not available you can use sayote (chayote)
1 tablespoon salt
patis (fish sauce)
malonggay leaves -- if malonggay leaves are not available, use spinach leaves

Heat oil in pot at medium high.
Add ginger and saute for a few minutes or until you smell the ginger.
Add chicken and salt; saute for 5-7 minutes more.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Add young papaya or sayote. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until papaya is soft.
Turn heat down to a slow simmer and add malonggay leaves or spinach. Simmer on low for a few minutes.
Add patis to taste.



Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.