What is Adobo?
Adobo is a very popular dish in the Philippines, so popular that it can be considered the country’s national dish according to some. Cooking Adobo involves marinating meat, seafood, or vegetables in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and pepper.
Adobo has evolved to have an identity of its own.
Philippine Adobo has its roots on Spanish cuisine. However the Filipino version differs greatly and has evolved to have an identity of its own. Spanish Adobo, traditionally, includes the use of spices like chilis, paprika, and oregano. However a traditional Philippine Adobo tends to veer away from complexity by adding different spices and instead finds its charm in its simplicity. Philippine Adobo includes ingredients found in the region such as pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, and bay leaves. Adobo from the Philippines ultimately has a salty and sour, and sometimes sweet flavor.
Adobo for Filipinos, in essence, refers more to the way or process of cooking more than the dish itself. As such, referring to Adobo can mean that it is not restricted to a type of meat or any ingredients. Meat that is typically used in Adobo are pork and chicken. However, some can find a combination of the two. Seafood like squid can also be the main ingredient in some Adobo as much as vegetables like sitaw or string beans. Adobo is often served with steaming white or brown rice and is called by Filipinos as ulam, which loosely translates as a pairing to rice.
There are numerous takes and variants to the dish.
Since Adobo refers more to the way of cooking, there are numerous takes and variants to the dish. Most basic recipes include vinegar such as coconut or cane, soy sauce, pepper, and garlic. However, it is important to understand that when it comes to cooking Adobo or any Filipino dish at all, it takes a great deal of deviation to suit one’s preferences. As such even one household, with its different people, can have different versions of Adobo.
In this regard, an usual variant of the dish is called Adobong Puti or White Adobo. The name comes from the use of salt instead of soy sauce opposing the more popular Adobong Itim or Black Adobo.
Another type of Adobo is the Adobong Dilaw or Yellow Adobod. It got its name from its yellow color due to the use of kalawag or turmeric. This can be found in the Southern portion of the Philippines.
History of Adobo
In the Philippines, Adobo is one of the main traditional cooking methods that use vinegar. The other three being paksiw or meat simmered in vinegar and spices, sangkutsa or braised meat in vinegar and spices, and lastly kinilaw or raw seafood in vinegar and spices.
Pre-colonial Filipinos, or Philippines before the colonization of Spain, often prepared their food with vinegar and salt as this helps it last longer in the tropical climate of the archipelago. Furthermore, vinegar can be considered as one of the most important ingredients when it comes to Filipino cuisine.
When Spain colonized the Philippines in the late 16th century, they uncovered the Adobo cooking process. Spanish Franciscan missionary Pedro de San Buenaventura first recorded Adobo in a dictionary called ‘Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala’. In the dictionary, it was referred to as ‘Adobo de los Naturales’ which translates to Adobo of the native peoples.
The term Adobo comes from the word ‘adobar’ which means to marinate
The Spanish later on applied the term Adobo to dishes that have been marinated first before being eaten. Furthermore, the term Adobo comes from the word ‘adobar’ which means to marinate. The Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala’s 1794 edition referred to kinilaw as having the Adobo process. Filipinos consider kinilaw as being a different but related dish in the sense that it mainly uses vinegar.
Making the quintessential Filipino dish, Adobo, is very easy. The most popular variation of the dish is that which is made with either chicken or pork as a base. In making the most basic version of Pork Adobo (and yet seemingly the most well known), you will need the following ingredients.
2-3 tbsp oil
1 kg pork belly cut into bite-size pieces
1 bulb of garlic diced or crushed
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp peppercorn
3-5 pieces of dried bay leaves
Preparation time for making Pork Adobo would take around 10 minutes and cooking time takes about an hour. Using 1 kg of pork belly for your Adobo makes 4 servings. Furthermore, this dish is best served with newly cooked white or brown rice.
Follow these steps to make the mouthwatering Pork Adobo.
First, heat up a large skillet and coat with oil. Once the oil is hot, add the pork belly pieces and cook them until they are browned.
Second, add garlic and saute until brown or for about one to two minutes. Add soy sauce, pepper, bay leaf and water.
Third, bring the mixture of soy sauce, pepper, bay leaf, water, and pork slices to boil. When you have it boiling, reduce the heat, add the vinegar, and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the pork is soft and tender. Don’t let it dry out and instead add ½ cup of water several times or every 10 minutes.
Lastly, serve with steamed white or brown rice and enjoy!
Pork Adobo is a very simple recipe
Pork Adobo is a very simple recipe which makes it a favorite food or ulam for many Filipinos. However, it does take a lot of time to prepare and simmering the pork slices takes up most of the cooking time. Some versions of Adobo are basically just combining all the ingredients in one pot and letting it cook. However, for those who wish for a browner, crispier, and more tender meat, you can follow the recipe and have the pork belly browned first by sauteing in hot oil. If you like your meat on the more tender side, you can let it simmer for longer. Additionally, if you want your Adobo to have a sweet kick, you can opt to add honey or sugar while simmering. You can also try adding boiled eggs to your Adobo for that extra boost of protein.
Of course, at the end of the day, Adobo is not tied to pork belly slices alone. You can have Chicken Adobo, Adobong Pusit or Squid Adobo, Adobong Sitaw or String Bean Adobo, or Adobong Kang Kong or Water Spinach Adobo.
If you find yourself falling in love with this dish, you will be pleased to know that you can share this love for Adobo with the over 100 million Filipinos out there.