As much as possible, I try to prepare school lunches that include vegetables. It’s not really a simple decision because vegetables do spoil faster than dry (grilled or fried) meat or fish. Especially on hot and humid days, I don’t like preparing school lunches that might spoil inside the lunch box even before lunch time. So, when I do include vegetables in the kids’ packed lunches, I stick to sautéed vegetable dishes, stir fries or simple soups with a clear broth.
For my kids’ lunch today, I cooked a modified tinola dish. Instead of chicken pieces chopped through the bone, I used chicken thigh fillets. Then, I substituted chayote for the unripe papaya and spinach for the sili (chili) leaves.
There are times when my kids ask that the rice be placed in a separate container. But with soupy dishes, like this one, they prefer to let the rice absorb the flavors of the broth. In effect, it’s a rice topping kind of dish–a very popular way of preparing packed meals in Southeast Asia.