There is always an excuse for us to choose a specific cuisine for our monthly feature. This month, we are headed to the Philippines, where Independence Day will be celebrated this coming Monday. The occasion for me to cook what is probably known as the national dish and one of most loved Filipino food: adobong manok or chicken adobo!
How to cook adobo
Adobo, which is more of a method of preparation, is often prepared with chicken but can also be made with pork, seafood or even vegetables. Those raw ingredients are marinated what is called adobo sauce: a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and peppercorns, before being browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. The word comes from the Spanish word adobar which actually means “marinade,” or “sauce”.
The method of cooking pork and chicken in vinegar as a way to preserve the meat probably dates back to the pre-Hispanic times. Like many peoples and cultures living in warmer climates, Filipino natives developed various methods to help them preserve food. Adobo used the acidity of vinegar and the high sodium content of salt to create an undesirable environment for bacteria to develop. It is the Chinese traders who visited the country and introduced soy sauce to Filipinos, which quickly replaced the salt present in the original marinade.
The Spanish became familiar with this cooking process as they arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century. The first written record of adobo dates from 1613, and can be found in the dictionary Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, compiled by the Spanish Franciscan missionary Pedro de San Buenaventura, where it is referred as adobo de los naturales (adobo of the native peoples).
Adobo is typically served with white rice. In the Philippines, the dish was traditionally cooked in small clay pots called palayok or kulon. Nowadays, metal pots or woks (kawali) are used instead.
The most important ingredient of Filipino adobo is vinegar. Coconut vinegar, rice vinegar, or cane vinegar are traditionally used, although white wine or cider vinegar are now often used.
Adobo ingredients and adobo variations
There are different versions of adobo in the country known as the Pearl of the Orient Seas. The most common version and the one I chose to prepare today is adobong itim (“black adobo”), which includes soy sauce. Adobong puti (“white adobo” or “blond adobo”) does not use soy sauce but salt instead.
Other ingredients made their way to various takes on the traditional dish, including siling labuyo (a small chili from the Philippines), Thai chili, red bell pepper, onions, brown sugar, potatoes, or even pineapple. Some people even brown their adobo in the oven, deep-fry it, or grilled it to obtain crispy chicken or pork.
Other regional variations include adobo sa gatâ from southern Luzon and Muslim Zamboanga, in which coconut milk is added, along with green finger chili peppers that are used instead of black peppercorns. In Cavite, a province located on the southern shores of Manila Bay, mashed pork liver is added to adobo. In Laguna, a province in the Calabarzon region in Luzon, turmeric gives adobo a distinct yellow color. This version is known as adobong dilaw, or “yellow adobo”.
The most common adobo versions are adobong manok, which chicken and adobong baboy, with pork. But there is a large number of other dishes using this adobo sauce and cooking method, such as adobong pugò (with quail), adobong isda (with fish), adobong hito (with catfish), adobong hipon (with shrimp), adobong pusit (a version with squid, darkened with squid ink). Vegetarian options include adobong kangkong or apan-apan adobado (water spinach), adobong labong (bamboo shoots), adobong talong (eggplant), adobong pusô ng saging (banana flowers), and adobong okra (with okra). The most adventurous will go for adobong sawâ (snake), adobong palakâ (frogs), Kapampangan adobong kamaru (mole crickets) or adobong atay at balunbalunan (chicken liver and gizzard). I will probably pass this time!
With chicken or pork adobo leftovers, Filipinos make adobong malutong (crispy adobo). It consists in shredded meat leftover that is fried in hot oil until it they are brown and crispy.
The Hispanic version of adobo has developed independently of the Filipino version. The method is similar but the ingredients typically include a combination of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar. Also, the Spanish adobo sauce is often very hot, with at least three kinds of chili peppers, tomato paste, and cinnamon. The Mexican version uses lemon juice, cumin, and oregano. The Portuguese variant is known as carne de vinha d’alhos (meat with wine and garlic).
I made this chicken adobo recipe last week and we all loved it. It is a simple dish that will please your tastebuds as much as your eyes. This dark brown caramelized chicken with peppery, salty and sour tones is truly spectacular.
- 3 lb chicken (any parts with bones)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 8 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp peppercorns half of them crushed
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- 2 green onions , sliced
In a bowl, combine chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, onion, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Drain chicken and set marinade aside.
Heat oil In a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on all sides for 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken is lightly browned.
Add the reserved marinade and water. Stir and bring to boil. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Top with green onions, and serve with white rice.