August 2, 2004
Three adobo recipes

adobo3.jpg

For me one of the essential food "quests" -- those back burner searches for some beloved/remembered food or recipe that never quite get satisfied -- is for adobo. For those who don't know, adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, in its simplest configuration just meat cooked with vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic (although for me, black pepper is also a fundamental ingredient). As a half-Filipino, I grew up eating the stuff, which was usually cooked by my mom, occasionally by my grandmother or an aunt. This culinary experience is probably the extent of my connection to Flip culture -- maybe that helps explains the dish's significance to me?

I've talked extensively with my mother about making adobo, which is obviously helpful (especially since the dish I'm trying to recreate is hers, or at least my memory of hers) but perhaps not as authoritative as you'd think. My mom is herself always changing her recipes, finding new ways to make adobo less fatty or less salty, depending on whatever health concern she has at the moment. Her adobo has definitely evolved, which means the recipes and suggestions I get now arent necessarily satisfying. I've also consulted other relatives, friends, numerous cookbooks, and the internet.

At any rate, I'm going to be posting three different recipes for adobo this week. Each recipe is different from the others and represents for me a completely different interpretation of adobo. I won't tell you which recipe I like best (that might be dispositive, for those cooking along at home) until I've posted all three, and even then the answer may not be clear.

Chicken adobo

The first recipe is for chicken adobo.

several chicken thighs and legs
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper
a bit of vegetable oil

Trim the fat if you like -- I find that this particular recipe can be very fatty. I personally would never remove thee skin, since I have such fond memories of eating adoboed chicken skin as a kid, but do as you need to do!

adobo2.jpg

This recipe is basically a fricasee. Preheat your oven to 300F. In a large ovenproof pan or dutch oven, saute the garlic in the bit of oil (not too much, since thighs and legs are so fatty) and as it starts to turn golden add and saute the chicken. The goal is to brown it without burning it or the garlic -- this requires a lot of movement. Generously pepper the chicken on every side as you saute it. When the chicken is somewhat browned, add the liquid ingredients and let them boil for a minute or so. Make sure to coat the chicken in the liquid. Cover, and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes.

adobo1.jpg

When it comes out, it should be done. There should be a substantial amount of liquid left, and if you want you can thicken it up some before serving. Serve with jasmine rice and tomato wedges, spooning the meaty, garlicky liquid over the rice.

Adobo famously gets better with age, so make sure you hang on to the leftovers.

Posted by Paul at August 2, 2004 9:57 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version
Comments

Do you know how adobo chicken is related to the adobo sauce you get canned chipotle peppers in?

Posted by Barrett on August 3, 2004 at 9:25 AM

This recipe sounds delicious - I can't wait to see how the others differ (and guess which is the fav!).

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 3, 2004 at 10:31 AM

And aren't there some spice mixes labeled "adobo." I think Goya sells a lot of this. Is it all connected in some way?

Posted by Todd on August 3, 2004 at 10:57 AM

According to the Food Lover's Companion (available in paper or on the www.epicurious.com site), the definitions are:

adobo
[ah-DOH-boh]
1. A Philippine national dish of braised chicken and pork with coconut milk. 2. A Philippine seasoning composed of CHILES, herbs and vinegar.

It seems to me that the spice is the child of the dish!

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 3, 2004 at 11:03 AM

There is also a spice mixture in Mexican cooking called adobo, and chipotle peppers do come in adobo sauce. For me the Mexican spices seem like a distant cousin or something... the Philippines are also a "Hispanic" country, and my understanding is that adobo (the kind I'm writing about here) has a some Spanish influence.

Posted by paul on August 3, 2004 at 12:25 PM

Ah, adobo! I'm still getting used to the fact that there can be many variations of adobo, and the one I grew up with, the one my mom made and her mom made, isn't necessarily the ONE, TRUE, and ONLY recipe. It's too much of a comfort food for me to experiment with, though!

Posted by ladygoat on August 3, 2004 at 2:05 PM

FYI: The Mexican Goya adobo seasonings are not at all the same as the Filipino adobo.

Posted by femmebot on March 27, 2005 at 11:47 PM

As someone who also grew up eatting this dish, it still amazes me as to how many different ways one can prepare this dish. My Aunt made this dish by marinating the meat in the sauce for a few hours before actually starting the cooking process. I also found out through my own experiments with this dish that using Filipino vinegar makes a huge difference. And lastly, trying to make this dish "healthy" (i.e. taking the skin off, useing chicken breast, etc...) is an injustice. It's like trying to make bacon "healthy".

Posted by rome on May 17, 2006 at 11:47 PM

My family loves this dish. I am not fillipino but I have brought my kids up on this but I always used cider vinegar, less pepper and after browning rhe chicken pieces I always simmered it in a large pot on the stove for many hours adding fresh garden green beans to the chicken and sauce towards the end.
We never have any left overs. =)

Posted by Heather on July 27, 2008 at 4:52 AM

I looove adobo, my mom cooks it a bit differently as well - she sometimes simmers it with bits of banna blossoms (which i think makes it smell even yummier) and laurel leaves.....

Posted by anon on November 6, 2008 at 8:05 PM

How my family makes it:

Same basic ingredients, but add in 2-3 bay leaves. Rough-crack the black pepper by placing whole black peppers on a cutting board and crushing with a heavy pan. Throw the bay leaves in after all the ingredients have been incorporated as above. We never used the oven for adobo, just simmered it slowly over low flame for a long long time.

I know some people put coconut milk in it too. Not in my pot, though you might want to try it some time.

Also, adobo is really about the sauce. My mom also makes pork, chicken + pork, and squid adobo.

Finally, I second the notion that the longer it sits, the better it will be. Make a ton of it. Throw it in some fried rice in the morning. Adobo fried rice is awesome.

Posted by Mike Manzano on April 25, 2009 at 4:00 AM

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE EATING ADOBO WAS AS A COOK ABOARD A NAVY DESTROYER. THE FILIPINO STEWARTSMATES USED TO COOK IN OUR KITCHEN. I TRIED IT AN HAVE BEEN HOOKED ON IT EVER SINCE. THEY CALLED IT ''GILI GILI''. WHEN THE FILIPINO COOK WENT ON VACATION I WAS COMMISSIONED TO MAKE ''GILI GILI'' FOR THE NON COOKING FILIPINOS. THE ADOBO I COOKED WAS PORK OR CHICKEN WITH THE ADDITION OF CHICKEN LIVER AND GIZZARD. COOKED SLOWLY UNTIL THE MEATS DISSAPEARED INTO A RICH GRAVY AND POURED OVER STEAMED RICE

Posted by HUGO on November 9, 2009 at 3:05 PM

I first ate adobo wen I visited the Quezon City. I have loved it ever since and make it once or twice a week. The recipe I know is pretty simple usually just one meat (pork or chicken). I add a little sugar to the sauce which I reduce until it is thick and tasty. I love adobo in the morning with eggs and the sauce poured on the rice yummmmy.

Posted by Rene on July 30, 2010 at 10:39 PM

I'd say that there is definitely a way to make adobo healthier. I cook it with a mixture of lean pork and chicken breast. I brown these in a large pot with onion and garlic and pepper, then I add the soy sauce and cider vinegar and bay leaves and some water, and let the whole thing simmer for a long time. One hour or longer. No oil and very little fat. Tastes delicious too!

Also, I was told that "adobo" means "cooking with vinegar", that may also be why there are so many different types.

Posted by Stephanie on August 20, 2010 at 7:43 PM

This simple recipe has lots of variations. It's definitely a popular filipino recipe. Chicken and pork are the most common, but there are variations with even more exotic ingredients. Check out my site for more recipes

www.adobochef.com

Posted by AdoboChef on February 15, 2011 at 10:52 PM
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