What Do You Put In Tinola: Papaya or Sayote?

Are you Team Papaya or Team Sayote?

IMAGE Forest and Kim Starr/Wikipedia Commons, Prathyush Thomas/Chayote Wikipedia
ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

Take a good look at the ingredients of your tinolang manok. Does your recipe have the green papaya or the sayote?

In Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, there are a few tips on how to make your tinolang manok recipe better. One of these tips suggests that you can substitute the talbos ng sili as the leafy greens that accompany the soup for malunggay leaves which grow abundantly in many backyards. Another suggests that the chicken be the native free-range variety that are more flavorful than the commercially raised chicken but takes longer to cook. 

Nowhere in the recipe or its tips, however, does it say that the green papaya has a substitute. In fact, there is no mention of the sayote as a possible substitute for the hard-to-find papaya.  

So where did we get the idea to substitute the sayote for the green papaya? 

It might be because both are similar. Here are great reasons why you can use either vegetable for your tinola recipe.

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Photo by Forest and Kim Starr/Wikipedia Commons
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1 The green papaya and sayote are prepared the same way. 

To prepare either of these two vegetables (the papaya is a vegetable when prepared in savory dishes), here's what you do: 

  1. 1. Remove the outside peel. Slice the vegetable in half. 
  2. 2. Remove or scrape out the large seed or seeds. 
  3. 3. Slice into quarters or into the desired serving sizes. 

Just by peeling the two vegetables, you'll see the similarities immediately. Both are also hardy vegetables that can last in storage about a week even after purchase. The papaya in particular will last even longer since these will just ripen into the red lady papaya that you can then eat as a fruit.   

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2 Both have subtle flavors that complement the ginger broth. 

The green papaya has a subtle sweetness to it that you can taste in the broth while the sayote has a subtle freshness in flavor. Either vegetable is a great complement to the chicken and ginger-infused broth. 

Photo by Wikipedia Commons
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3 Each becomes tender when cooked. 

Both cook to a tenderness that is very similar, too. They cook into a pretty translucent green that are tender and crisp at the same time when cooked just right. Nutritionally, the papaya is the better choice but when cooked, either are delicious choices for pairing with the tinola because when simmered and cooked longer than needed, both become very tender vegetables. Sayote is commonly mashed and used as one of the vegetables for a baby's first food. 

Which one is your favorite for tinola? Are you a sayote or green papaya fan? 

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