How To Transform Nilaga To Tinola

You just need to make a few adjustments to the recipe.

IMAGE Patrick Martires

The heart and soul of a nilaga recipe is really the beef. The beef is responsible for the overall taste of the dish, from the broth that is simmered for hours to the beef that needs to be tenderized in the broth to make it easy to eat. 

it's just a basic recipe that it's not hard to find recipes that make what is essentially a nilaga into another dish altogether. There's no need to make a whole new dish if you still have leftovers to work with. 

What is a nilaga

A nilaga is actually a method of cooking. "Nilaga" basically means "simmered" or "boiled", and the most popular version of the nilaga recipe is the beef version. That's why there are nilagang baka, nilagang baboy, and other "nilaga" using different kinds of meat and main ingredients. 

The key to the best tasting nilaga is the beef. The beef gives this simple soup its flavor so if you're going to spend on something, buy fresh and flavorful cuts of beef. Then it's just a matter of letting water, beef, aromatics, seasonings, and the vegetables simmer until the beef and the veggies are all tender to the bite. It's common to find a nilaga that is very lightly seasoned. This is so you can serve it with a side of patis and calamansi. 

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Photo by Majoy Siason
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How do you turn a nilaga into another dish? 

As we said, a nilaga is a basic recipe that you can easily turn into another dish with the addition of a few ingredients and maybe a swap of vegetables from the usual potatoes, carrots, and green beans. Here are ideas:

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  • • If you add corn cobs or a can of sweet kernel corn, then you instantly make a bulalo.
  • • If you add kamias, green langka or jackfruit, and siling labuyo, you might be making kansi. 
  • • If you add bell peppers, ginger, and siling labuyo, you can make hinalang from Davao. 
  • If you replace the vegetables with rice noodles, bean sprouts or togue, and basil and mint leaves, you can make an easy Vietnamese beef pho

These are just a few dishes you can easily make using leftover nilagang baka

If you are craving tinola however, it's more complicated. First, tinola is commonly made with chicken. A nilaga is commonly made with beef, so instantly, the flavor profile is vastly different. Not to worry. If you don't mind your tinola tasting more beefy than chicken, we can make this work! 

Here's what you do: 

  1. 1 Remove vegetables and beef from the nilaga and reheat the soup in a large pot. 
  2. 2 Add 1-inch size ginger, sliced, and simmer in the broth. Add 2 sayote or 1 green papaya, cut into serving pieces, if using, and simmer until tender. 
  3. 3 Return beef including the other nilagang vegetables to the pot if desired. 
  4. 4 Season with patis and serve when hot. 
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If you really miss the chicken flavor, you can add chicken pieces and simmer these in the beef broth until cooked through. You are basically making a version of the nilagang pasko

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