Whether the weather turns chilly or summer returns, this delectable Filipino stew is the perfect dinner meal any time of year. With no shortage of coconut trees in the Philippines, gata or coconut milk is a very common ingredient found in our cuisine. It’s easy to harvest and more affordable than dairy from cows or goats, and thus is easily utilized in both savoury and sweet preparations. Its versatility shines in Southeast Asian cuisine: growing up, I have fond memories eating countless dishes with coconut milk or flesh, from bibingka at Christmas to laing as a veggie side dish.
This farmer’s stew is easy to make and can be done with a host of substitutions. Instead of chicken, you can use pork or perhaps sablefish. If done in a larger skillet, you can even poach a whole tilapia in the broth. For a vegetarian option, long beans and cubed squash make a hearty meal. It’s the ideal weekday dish to put together with whatever you have in your fridge plus some pantry staples, and the results are always delicious.
• 1 can (400 mL) coconut milk
• 1 onion, medium, diced
• 2 tbsp ginger, minced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cubed
• 5 chillies, dry
• 1 ½ tbsp Bovril (or ½ a bouillon cube)
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• 2–3 cups spinach
• ½ tsp cornstarch (optional)
1. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepot on medium heat.
2. Add the onion, ginger and garlic, and bring to a boil.
3. Add the chicken, chillies, and Bovril/bouillon, then bring back to a boil.
4. Lower the temperature down to a simmer and cover for approximately 28–30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
5. Season the stew with fish sauce to taste.
6. Optionally, you can dissolve cornstarch in a small water slurry and add it to the stew to thicken it. This is optional and preferred.
7. Lastly, add the spinach and cover, letting it cook through for 4–5 minutes.
8. Serve hot over freshly cooked rice.