Filipino Adobo Everything

and why it's a Must-Know Technique for your larder

Real talk.

Nothing saves a lazy meal alone or impromptu with friends other than an item in your larder or fridge that is either the following:

  1. flavor-packed

  2. versatile

  3. any left-over could still be used in the future- plus it actually taste better with time.

The Filipino-style Adobo is one of those that can tick off all three.

Well, actually, most braised or stewed meat dishes with strong aromatics and bold sauces do age well in your fridge. That extra time of retro-marinating and flavor marriages does some next level transformation which melds all the ingredients together in one seemingly new flavor. That which is greater than the sum of all its parts.

But there is something so compelling about the simplicity of Filipino Adobo that makes it such a larder item staple.

I mean, it's got principally five ingredients plus your item of choice, but it can virtually be with anything you fancy.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

So for those of you not yet acquainted with Filipino Adobo, it is essentially a braised dish which can be made out of almost any item of your choice. It can be pork, chicken, beef, lamb, fish, squid, snails, egg, tofu, potatoes and the list goes on.

The flavor profile primarily comes from just five ingredients but there are optional add-ons based on availability, preference and regional customs.

First, there is Vinegar as the primary medium (along with some water) for cooking. Not only does it add the tang and brightness to the ensemble, it’s actually with the acid in the vinegar that makes this dish-method keep well even without refrigeration. The actual type of vinegar used is only a matter of taste and availability. You use what you have. From apple cider (which works superbly with pork), rice wine, sugar cane, coconut, fruit-based vinegars and even grape wine vinegars, one will just have to experiment and find out what’s best for their own taste.

Next there is garlic that gives the dish its pungency which mellows out over time. Another standard spice used is the black pepper with its mild heat and sweet-spicy aroma. Then there’s bay leaf which provides another layer of sweet and interesting aroma.

Lastly, the salt. It can be simply sea salt which would give a nice clean and white finished dish or, as is the commonly portrayed Classic style of adobo, with soy sauce. This gives not only the appetizing shiny brown color of the dish, but also that depth of saltiness and umami that can’t be delivered by salt alone.

Then there are the regional and optional stuff that people all around the Philippines (or the world) have come to adapt their adobo recipe with. From fish sauce, coconut cream, cream, pineapple (juice and chunks) and even different types of sugar.

Whatever the add-on may be, it seems that it always finds itself comfortable with the original five after letting the dish rest for some time, allowing the magic of time to intermingle all the ingredients together.

The more common recipes of adobo primarily have meat as its main ingredient. But applying adobo technique even to your canned pantry items will definitely give it a boost you’d never expect.

So for this issue, I did a chickpea adobo (from the can!) But feel free to use the dried ones as well (just pre-soak 4 hours ahead)

Making a slightly bigger batch allowed me to enjoy this over the course of 5 meals over the week. On rice, on toast, with eggs, as a salad topping or even a quick vegetable stir-fry. Having this inside my fridge even saved a late lunch, after realizing that I have yet to re-stock my pantry!

well anyways, here’s the recipe:

(the one we do at the restaurant is more on the dry-oil based side with some added oregano for aroma)

Chickpea Adobo

240g canned chickpea in brine, drained

1 whole head of garlic, sliced (you can of course have less if you want)

50ml soy sauce

50ml white vinegar

50ml neutral oil

2pcs bay leaf

10 peppermill cracks of black pepper

chili flakes (optional and to taste)

  • heat up your oil in a pan. add in the garlic slices and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or up until it has noticeably softened.

  • add in the rest of the ingredients and cook for around 20 minutes or up until the liquid has reduced to more than half (or even totally dried, leaving an oily-good adobo)

After trying your first adobo dish at home, you’d get to adjust the whole dish based on your preference. And that’s where the fun starts since you can make it more garlicky, peppery, salty or even more acidic with vinegar as you please.

Try it with other meats and vegetables too! My other favorites are tofu, eggplant, pork belly, zucchini and even bell peppers.

The important thing is to keep trying and tweaking based on what makes your taste buds satisfied. :)

that’s it for this week’s issue!