It is quite impossible not to hear the word “adobo” when we talk about Philippine cuisine. That stew made of pork, or chicken cooked with vinegar, soy sauce which gives it its salty-sour taste. Every time I go to a carinderia, an adobo is always on display, different types of adobo – there are even adobo made of vegetable like sitaw (string beans) and kang kong.
The word adobo came from the Spanish word adobar which means to marinate, that’s because adobo is all about marinating the ingredients. Legend has it that when the Spanish conquered the Philippines in the late 16th century, they saw that the natives were marinating pork in vinegar. The process is really about food preservation since well… there were no refrigerators in those days. The Spaniards called it “adobo” since it is quite similar on what they do in Spain. When Chinese traders came in the Philippines, they also introduced soy sauce. So? There you have it folks – the basic ingredients of adobo – meat, vinegar and soy sauce. Most adobo recipes are seasoned with garlic, bay leaf (dahon ng laurel), and black pepper. The peppercorns can be left whole or crushed for a more vibrant flavor.
Different Folks, Different Stroke
So, how do you like your adobo?
One thing about adobo is it varies based on what region it was cooked. So, let say we are talking to a place near waters then expect that their adobo is mostly made up of sea-foods like adobong posit for example or adobong palaka (frogs). Regions that love spicy food like Bicol makes spicy adobo. There are also “white adobo.” Now a white adobo (adobong puti) is not exactly white in color. White adobo are adobo cooked without soy sauce.
Maybe you think that there are no adobo in Mindanao, right? Well, our Muslim brothers also have some adobo version of their own. Since it is not allow for a Muslim to eat pork, their adobo is mostly chicken and they use turmeric instead of soy sauce which give their adobo a yellowish color.
Make it Gata and Fancy
There are also adobo recipe that has coconut milk or gata. Now, instead of soy sauce, they place the meat (pork or chicken) in coconut milk and vinegar. Now, what makes this more awesome is that they use pork belly (liempo). Now, that makes the adobo soft and juicy.
We also have fancy adobo recipes. Adobo cooked with pineapples while others use gravy. There are adobo cooked with bananas, and even mango juice and some slices of green mangoes.
The best thing about adobo is that you can use other meat other than pork and chicken. You can use beef, yes and even fish, or you can use something more exotic like adobong pagi (stingray), palaka (frog), snakes, beetle grubs, crickets, and even grasshoppers.
Vegans can also have a taste of the adobo fancy. Sitaw (string beans), kang kong and even mushrooms are use in making vegetable adobo. Adobo is best serve with rice or a topping, yet there are even chrackers and corn snacks that have adobo flavor.
So when we talk about adobo, imagination has no limits.
What are you waiting for? Grab a dish of adobo now.