On Adobo

Pork Adobo

It is the dish that crops up most frequently when Filipino food becomes the topic of conversation.  Legions of Filipino college kids had it at least twice a week in their dormitories.  Filipinos abroad crave for it, even wax dreamily about it.  Every single household in the Philippines has its own recipe for it.

This, dear SybDive readers, is how adobo is perceived in this part of the world.

Unlike the Spanish dish that it was originally derived from, Filipino adobo does not involve marinating meat in a melange of tomatoes, garlic, salt, vinegar, and spices.  Indeed, the local take on the dish is actually seasoned with a heady mix of soy sauce, vinegar, salt, plenty of garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.

The meat – usually pork, though chicken (meat and liver) can be thrown in – is stewed in the marinade which gives it a delectably dark color and a corresponding savory-tart aroma and flavor.  Liempo – pork belly – is the most usual cut of meat for adobo as you actually need the fat to help make a seal if you’re planning to keep the dish for longer than a few days.

Adobo is one of those few dishes that actually improves over time as the sauce is thickened as the fat melts and the meat becomes fork-tender.  Prepared in this manner, it goes perfectly with hot white rice with a simple salad of chopped tomatoes, minced red onions, and bagoong (shrimp/fish paste) on the side.

However, my favorite way of preparing adobo is referred to in the province of Rizal as adobong matanda.  Here, pork adobo is taken out of the sauce and deep-fried till the rim of fat is gorgeously crunchy outside and melting within.  This can be eaten with rice as is or the meat can be shredded and fried till even crisper to make adobo flakes.  It is, perhaps, not one of the healthiest things to eat.  Still, I can’t think of any other Filipino dish that people – both locals and foreigners – can actually swear by.