Adobo was originally a Spanish dish, having been introduced four hundred years ago, but has become something Filipinos have since adopted and made their own. Indeed, there are as many versions of adobo as there are provinces in the Philippines. Practically each household has its own rendition of this traditional dish, each with its own distinct twist to the recipe.
The basic ingredients are garlic and vinegar or another souring agent (tamarind, guava and even watermelon are not unheard of) and soy sauce. Some versions require coconut milk while others use olive oil. The viands required to fill the stew are also as varied. Aside from pork or chicken, one can make adobo with prawns, squid, lamb, goat, crabs, beef, vegetables (bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage, potato, etc.) or even frog’s legs and balut (traditionally salted duck fetus). Once prepared, it is an invaluable companion to steaming hot rice and makes for a quick meal over the week, as the older it gets, the richer and more full-bodied its flavor. Even adobo’s leftovers need not go to waste. The sauce and oils can be used for frying leftover rice while the meat can be shredded and also fried to a crisp as Ropa Vieja.
Try this recipe if you want something distinctly home-cooked from the Archipelago.
- 1 kilo pork belly (liempo) and cut into 1-inch width by 2-inch lengths
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1 cup rum (Tanduay or Añejo, the white variant, you can also use your favorite rum brand)
- Soak the pork belly pieces in this mixture.
- Sauté garlic in the cooking oil till light golden brown.
- Remove garlic from oil and drain on paper towel.
- 1 cup buco juice (young coconut juice, aka young coconut water)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon freshly crushed black peppercorns
- 1 piece bay leaf (aka laurel)
- 1 sprig oregano or 1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
- Salt to taste, start with 1/2 teaspoon.
- Marinate the pork belly in the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and rum for 2 hours.
- Drain from marinade and save marinade.
- In a non-corrosive cooking pot, such as glass, enamel, or non-stick, pour in the oil from the sautéed garlic plus 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Avoid using aluminum or stainless steel pans, they will add a metallic flavor to the meat.
- Place pot over medium-low fire and sauté the 1 tablespoon crushed garlic till very light gold.
- Put in the marinated pork pieces and sear.
- Turn the flame to low and pour in the pork marinade, buco juice, peppercorns, bay leaf, and oregano.
- Simmer the pork, stirring occasionally, till the pork is tender; around 30 to 40 minutes.
- Adjust the taste with salt.
- When adjusted, sprinkle the golden fried garlic over the meat and serve with hot rice. Some people may want more garlic, so you can also serve extra fried garlic on the side.