Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mexican Dinner time! Tinga de Pollo

We've come across very few places to get good Mexican food in Berlin so far. There are so many Mexican restaurants, or should I say Mexican 'themed' restaurants as most of them are run by non-Mexicans, but very few of them are authentic and most of them disappoint with their bland, tex-mex style food. There is even an Indian-slash-Mexican restaurant in Rosenthaler Platz which although it sounds appealing (as a combination of two of my favourite styles of food) somehow it doesn't seem like it could work. So, the only way to get my fix for Mexican food is the make it at home.

A few weekends ago we decided it was time to make a Mexican dinner again and for me to try out making 'Tinga' (chicken with tomato and chipotle chiles). I've been dying to try it out even since my sister-in-law gave me the recipe when we visited Mexico back in February. So, we invited a couple of good friends over for dinner and went about preparations.

The finished 'Tinga' ready to serve
Tinga takes quite a while to prepare as you have to boil the chicken for at least an hour and then shred it (this can be a particularly arduous process if you are cooking for a big group of people) as well as slow-roast the tomatoes and then mix and chop all the other ingredients together the make the 'salsa'. So, we started out by going to the marvelously huge "Real" supermarket at Frankfurter Tor the afternoon of the dinner. We bought the rather overpriced but necessary tortillas (Tinga should be accompanied by maize as opposed to flour tortillas), the chicken thighs and the other 'Mexicany' spices and chillies needed.

The chicken thighs boiling away with garlic and some parsley we had left over
When we arrived back at home I got to work boiling the chicken. I had searched through my papers to find the rather tatty and (as I shortly found out) confusing notes that I had taken nearly a year ago in Mexico. At the time of taking the notes I was trying to follow the 'live demonstration' which was dictated to me in Spanish so my recipe notes had come out as a very messy mix of English and Spanish. My brain wasn't very good at translating and writing at the same time and couldn't decide which language to write in or indeed how to form a proper sentence in either one!

Can anyone make sense out of my recipe notes?
The Mexican cooking device called a 'comal' (kind of like a flat pan placed on the hob) is used for many things in the Mexican kitchen including heating up tortillas and roasting tomatoes for Tinga. So I got started with roasting the tomatoes and enjoyed using my comal for the first time (thanks Odila for giving it to me).

The Chicken boiling and the tomatoes roasting
After spending what felt like an eternity shredding the chicken, the next steps in making the sauce were fairy straight forward and fast as it was basically just a question of throwing it all a bowl and blending it all together.

Spices, garlic and red chillies ready to hit the blender

Pepper, Cumin and Cloves for the sauce
Blending it all together
All in all it took a good couple of hours to prepare but it was worth the effort and our guests seemed quite impressed with it too. It wasn't the same as my sister-in-law's authentic version but the main reason (apart from my terrible note taking abilities) was because we didn't have any proper chipotle and used a sauce flavoured as chipotle instead. If anyone knows where to get chipotle in Berlin, please let me know! It was definitely delicious though and tasted even better the next day as left-overs.

I've attached the recipe to this post too in case you dare follow my instructions and attempt to make this delicious dish. 

Tinga de Pollo

Here is my (very approximate) version of the Tinga recipe. I recommend you try making it yourself as it is very yummy but I can't be responsible for the outcome!

Serves four people (probably)
Cooking time - 2 hours (mas o menos)
n.b. - although the quantities of the ingredients looks like I know what I am talking about, all quantities are actually completely made up as I don't have a clue what ratio they should be in. So, experiment and see what happens! 


x4 Chicken thighs
x4 cloves of garlic (whole)
x6 medium tomatoes
x4 medium onions
a pinch or two of salt
a pinch or two of Black pepper
Chile Chipotle (canned)*
a splash of cold water
Vegetable oil
White pepper

To serve:

maize tortillas
fresh lime
creme fraise or sour cream

*We didn't actually have any Chipotle this time but we replaced it with Chipotle flavoured Tabasco sauce and a chopped up random red chilly we found in the supermarket which is obviously not the same but did the job well enough to make the dish edible and spicy!   

** If you don't have a comal you can always use a frying pan or roast them in the oven. 


  • Boil the chicken in a saucepan with a clove or two of garlic until cooked - at least 45 minutes on a medium to low heat. Remove from water and leave to cool. Once the chicken is cooled, shread it by hand into thin strips and set aside. 

  • Whilst the chicken is boiling, slow roast the tomatoes (whole) on a medium heat on a comal**. Don't add any oil or butter. Turn as needed to roast on all sides until browned - at least 45 minutes cooking time is needed. 

  • Chop the onions into fairly large strips and fry in oil on a medium low heat until transparent and a little browned. 

  • Fry the shredded chicken in vegetable oil and add a little white pepper. 

  • Prepare a blender with the salt, black pepper, chipotle, cloves, cumin and water. Add the roasted tomatoes and blend together until smooth. I have no idea what combination or quantities these spices are supposed to be mixed in as I didn't make any notes about that so you're on your own here. I suppose it depends on how spicy or sweet you like your food.  

  • Add the blended sauce to the onions and mix together. Then add the fried chicken and make sure it is all mixed together well. Leave to simmer. Actually I skipped this part of the instructions so just let it simmer until you get hungry or bored and then serve.  

To serve, put a spoon of Tinga on a heated tortilla, add a squeeze of lime and a spoon of creme fraise, fold or roll the tortilla and eat. The best way to eat a taco of Tinga is with your hands, you might experience an explosion of Tinga everywhere (there really is a trick to being able to eat tacos without having to shower afterwards) but using knives and forks is CHEATING!

If you do decide (or dare) to try following my recipe please let me know how it turns out. If it is a disaster, you can always call a pizza or get one of the many yummy Berlin kebabs instead!  

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