No self-respecting Filipino can get away with not knowing how to make Philippine Adobo. Adobo is the Philippines’ national dish. It is our national casserole – it is comfort home cooking at its finest.
While every home has their own version, the foundations will always be the same. Meat, bay leaf, white cane vinegar, a rich dark soy sauce, peppercorn, lots of garlic and love. Cooked until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone and served on top of steaming white rice… sarap. (Delicious.)
Adobo, the Philippines’ National Dish
Before the Philippines was colonised, Adobo was the native way of preserving meat. This dish is ingrained in our history and culture. Some people like theirs dry and salty. Some people like theirs a bit blander and drowning in sauce. Some regions add coconut milk, some like theirs “white”, with only a dash of soy sauce and a lot of vinegar. The beauty of the Philippine Adobo is that it is friendly, adaptable, and diverse, much like the Philippines and its 7000+ islands.
My Mum’s Chicken and Pork Adobo
My particular version has a bit of sauce, a bit of sugar, some potatoes, and a combination of both pork and chicken. This is one of the best dishes that I learned to cook from my mum. I remember it was on a trip out of town with some friends. We wanted a big dinner, but not a lot of us knew how to cooked, and the ones who did didn’t want to have to stick around cooking it. I called my mum and asked what we can cook that we can leave on top of a fire while we went swimming on the beach. She talked me through her recipe. I followed her instructions, placed everything in a big pot on top of a steady fire, and left it to join my friends.
It was such a simple and easy dish, but to this day, I remember the compliments that I received from preparing that meal. I remember that being one of those moments that made me really proud of being my mother’s daughter.
It is nice to carry on this memory and skill now that I live across the globe from her. My mum is one of the sweetest and kindest people I know, and while she gets on my nerves like most mums and daughters feel towards each other, I do miss her a lot. When I do, I always have her dishes to comfort me. Someday, I’ll be making these dishes for my kids, and hopefully, they associate them with home as well.
I’m sure a lot of expats feel the same way. Food has a special way of taking you to a different place and time. Immersing yourself in the sight, smell, and flavour of a dish can bring you back to a special memory. It can bring you home.
Sharing my (mum’s) Pork and Chicken Adobo recipe below. Enjoy!
- 500 g chicken on bone
- 300 g pork shoulder or belly
- 3 medium potatoes, diced, skin on
- 4 cloves
- 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/2 cup cane vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- Combine the soy sauce, cane vinegar, sugar, and water with some seasoning. A good tip is to taste it even before cooking. You'd want it to be balanced - not too sweet, and equally salty and sour. Adjust it to your liking. It has to be strong as it will seep into the meat.
- Combine all the ingredients in a deep pot, place over medium heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes
- Remove the chicken meat and cool slightly while the rest of the ingredients and sauce is reducing in the pot on low fire. Add a bit of water if it is too dry.
- Heat cooking oil in a frying pan until very hot. Fry the chicken, skinside down until it crisps up a bit.
- Arrange meat on plate and top with sauce and potatoes. Serve with steamed rice and greens.
You can also choose not to fry it in the end and let the sauce really reduce into the chicken and pork instead, similar to a braising method.