As a proud Filipina-American and registered dietitian nutritionist, I am so excited that this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Celebrate a World of Flavors”. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have Filipino dishes made for me daily by my grandma, who would constantly remind me that the Philippines is known as Asia’s “melting pot” because of the uniqueness and variety of its food. Aside from Asian influences, Filipino food culture also has a heavy Spanish influence dating back to the early Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 1500s.
One of my favorite dishes growing up as a child was a soup called sopas, which literally translates to “soup”. A Filipino version of chicken noodle soup, both my mom and grandma would make sopas any time I was sick or on a cold rainy day. This dish is traditionally made with elbow macaroni, and milk is used to create its signature creamy broth. The soup often includes diced veggies such as carrots, celery, onions, and cabbage, but other variations can include potatoes, green peas, green beans, or Chinese celery.
Now that I’m a mom, I make sopas for my family, and as a dietitian, I love that this soup includes wholesome ingredients like real dairy milk to elevate the nutrition and flavor. I make sopas with evaporated or whole milk, depending on what we have on hand. Adding real dairy milk to the broth gives it an extra boost of protein so it’s filling and hearty enough for my husband and growing toddler sons.
“Celebrate a World of Flavors” with a bowl of sopas this National Nutrition Month!
Filipino Chicken Sopas Recipe
- 1 lb. skinless chicken (a deli rotisserie can also be used)
- 1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
- 4 stalks celery, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 Tb minced garlic
- 1 ½ cups chopped cabbage (optional)
- 4 cups canned chicken stock
- 6 to 8 cups water (chicken broth can be used instead if rotisserie chicken is used)
- 1 1/2 cup fresh milk or 1 14 oz. can evaporated milk
- 3 Tb butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring water to a boil.
- Add chicken. Boil chicken in low to medium heat for 45 minutes or until tender.
- Remove chicken and let cool. Set aside water used to boil the chicken.
- Once chicken reaches room temperature, shred the meat using your hands. Discard any bones. (Note: a deli rotisserie can be used in place of boiling chicken.)
- Meanwhile, heat a clean large cooking pot.
- Pour in the butter and oil. Once the butter and oil become hot, sauté onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and optional cabbage for 3 minutes.
- Add shredded chicken. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Pour in chicken stock and remaining water used to boil the chicken (or chicken broth). Stir and let boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the elbow macaroni. Cook for 15 minutes. Add more water/broth if needed.
- Pour in milk. Stir and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a bowl and serve.
Celebrated by Unilever USA as one of its Agents of Change in the nutrition industry, Sheena Quizon Gregg, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Assistant Director of the Department of Health Promotion & Wellness at The University of Alabama. In addition to her work at UA, she manages a part-time private, Sheena Gregg Nutrition, focused on helping her clients gain intuitive eating skills. She has served as president of the Alabama Dietetic Association and as a spokesperson for the statewide Scale Back Alabama program. She has been quoted in USA Today College, Shape Magazine, and Women’s Health Magazine on the topics of fad diets, weight management, sports nutrition, and eating disorders. She currently serves on the expert panel for BestFoodFacts.org.