Tinolang Manok (Opo Squash and Ginger Chicken Soup)

Easy and delicious Asian-style chicken soup flavored with fresh ginger and squash – Tinolang Manok.

Nowadays, we are trying to eat a little healthier than usual (with occasional sweet treats of course!) and so I have decided to look back on my heritage to try and make more Filipino style dishes that are both nutritionally more beneficial and flavorful, too. In the Tagalog Region, where my little island belong, a lot of our food are soup-based – with veggies and meat added in and lots of garlic, onion, tomatoes and ginger added for flavor!
The weather may be hot outside but Filipinos will still be seen eating Sinigang, Bulalo or Tinola. These are pretty much comfort food for us. Very healthy ’cause we use just plain water as base for the soup but add lots of fresh aromatics for flavor and nutrition.

There was a time, I didn’t want to try Tinolang Manok – I think because I often had this growing up and felt I ought to broaden my horizon and try other dishes. It’s been over 20 years since I have had a taste of this marvelous soup so I thought since it’s perfect for our present diet, I decided to finally try my hand at making it….Not only did I feel so silly because I realized I actually have missed it so much I have done a  disservice to my family by not making Tinola for them either. At any rate, I am just happy that my husband very much enjoyed it!

Traditionally, we use unripe Green Papaya, Upo or Patola for this dish. I did get a green papaya but it was red when I opened it so that’s not very useful to me. It has to be a real unripe and green papaya (not just the outside but the inside or the flesh, too). But thankfully, I found this Opo Squash (Upo in the Philippines). It is marvelous for Asian soups and I will be using this very often from now on.


Enjoy this truly healthy and amazing soup!


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2 Tablespoon Oil (I used Olive Oil)
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium Onion, chopped
2-2 1/2 inch Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 kilo / 2.2 lbs Chicken pieces (Drumstick and thighs)*
1 Tablespoon Salt / 3 teaspoons (yes that’s right) or 3-4 Tablespoon Fish Sauce (to be more authentic)
Ground black Pepper or peppercorn, to taste
8 cups water
1 medium Opo Squash, peeled, quartered and sliced (or unripe Papaya, Patola and Chayote)
5-6 cups Spinach leaves
Fresh Red Chili, chopped

*I use about 5 drumsticks and 4 thighs. I use skinless but boned-in thighs for a lower-fat version but feel free to retain the skin if you prefer it.


In a large and deep pan heat the oil and sauté the garlic, ginger and onion for a couple of minutes until fully aromatic. Add the chicken pieces and sauté until all the chicken are lightly browned. Season with salt (or fish sauce, if using) and pepper.

Pour in the 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes or until the chicken is tender. I usually cover the pan as it simmers.

Add the chopped Opo Squash and cook for another 10 minutes or until the squash is translucent and tender. Finally, add in the spinach and just cook until wilted, about a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning – add more salt, fish sauce and even a little sugar to taste!

If you wish to add some heat, add a little red chili (sliced) with the soup. If you’re Pinoy – serve with some soy and fish sauce combo with a few squeezes of  lime juice (calamansi) on the side!  You can have this with rice, naturally!

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  1. Ruth
    March 20, 2013 / 11:35 pm

    Love this. I prefer unripe papaya or chayote. Haven't tried patola and opo squash. I might try that next time. I usually ask this when I'm not feeling well. I think this one is better than chicken soup when you have colds than because of the amount of ginger and garlic, plus the onion.

    How about Halo-halo next time for sweets. Worth a share 😀

    • March 23, 2013 / 1:06 am

      Hi Ruth! I agree, this is probably healthier. And the Opo Squash(or Upo for us) really worked well. If I get enough ingredients for halo-halo, why not? Thanks for stopping by!

  2. March 23, 2013 / 1:03 am

    Thanks, Paige! We love this very healthy and flavorful soup.

  3. Anonymous
    March 26, 2013 / 2:49 am

    I really want to make this soup but I can't find an Opo sqaush. I live in the middle of Nebraska and in the winter the sqaush selection is limited. Any suggestions for substitutes? Melissa

    • March 26, 2013 / 5:26 pm

      Chayote Squash, Luffa Squash/Gourd are good substitutes. I often find Chayote where I am (MI) even though it's winter so chances are you might find it too. Or, a totally unripe – Green papaya either in your grocery or Asian store. Hope you find one and if not, you can still make the soup even without the vegetable – perhaps you can add green beans or Asian long beans – we often use them for soups in the Philippines too though not necessarily for this particular one.

    • Anonymous
      March 26, 2013 / 11:04 pm

      I found the Chayote squash. Thanks so much

    • Anonymous
      January 19, 2014 / 2:00 am

      you can substitute green papaya with chayote. you can find it at walmart groceries.

  4. April 19, 2013 / 12:17 pm

    I love Ginger and this is my comfort food especially when I'm sick. Back in the Philippines, I used to put Malunggay leaves in my soup. But since I can't find any here, spinach leaves is a good substitute 🙂

    • April 19, 2013 / 3:12 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and glad you found us! Yup, I use Spinach as a sub here too but I do miss Malunngay! 🙂

  5. September 9, 2013 / 1:27 pm

    I had this last week! We use Malunggay and Upo instead of spinach. I love this! Sometimes we tweak it and add glass noodles! Still tastes great!

    • September 10, 2013 / 3:51 pm

      Micole, I miss Malunggay and wish I could add them, too but for now am happy with Spinach. Even better with noodles! Thanks for the tip! I should add some for next time. 🙂

    • September 14, 2013 / 2:29 am

      Thanks, Bintu! It's a great soup for the coming chilly weather!

  6. September 24, 2013 / 10:41 am

    This looks awesome – we usually make stir-fry with upo ( we just call it long squash here in Hawaii, you can find it in any store, and usually a neighbor has some growing) and pork or chicken, and lots of ginger and garlic. This soup sounds like a great variation on that, looking forward to trying this very soon !

    • September 24, 2013 / 1:24 pm

      That sounds awesome, too Robert! Hope you enjoy this. Thanks for stopping by.

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