Going back in time to my student days, learning about the geography and history of our neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia were compulsory subjects. If you asked me now, my knowledge of SEA is a smattering of everything which turned out to be rather piecemeal. Ha ha ha..
However, there’s one topic in “my” self-created chapter of SEA that really fascinates me. FOOD! While I could name a few dishes belonging to a particular SEAsian country, I was struggling with the dishes of the Philippines.
Least Known Kitchen in the World, or is it?
When my late Dad made a trip to Manila many years ago, he brought home with him some souvenirs including the barong tagalog, an embroidered and very lightweight shirt worn by the Filipinos. He also told us he sat in a jeepney and ate “rotten” eggs, with a chicken or duck embryo still intact in the egg. It sounded revolting and mind-boggling, but later I discovered that those “rotten” eggs are one of the country’s streetfood delicacies. I came to know the proper name of the egg from a Filipina friend. It’s called “Balut” or fertilized egg, where a developing – usually – duck embryo is boiled alive and eaten from the shell.
No offence to my friends from the Phil. I’ll give the balut a skip for now. Sorry D and N *grin*.
The dishes from the Philippines are the least known to most of us. While the Thai/ Laos, Vietnamese/ Cambodian, Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean/ Bruneian and Burmese’s kitchens are thriving and taking centre stage in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the semi-Hispanicized dishes of the Filipinos take backstage.
But wait a minute…
There’s one dish that completely defines the Philippines. It is none other than the country’s numero uno dish, the Adobo. Any Pinoys and Pinays would concur in unison: “No list of Filipino food would be complete without the Adobo”. So true.
Adobo with an “O”
It’s not Adobe as in “mud brick” or a computer software system. It’s ADOBO with an “O”, thank you.
The Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries, where Spanish culture had largely influenced the kitchen of the locals. Adobo is one of them.
Not long ago at work, I had a chat with a colleague, who is Spanish through and through. From one topic to another, we talked about Spain and of course the foods. I asked her if she has heard of ‘adobo’.
Why, of course, she said.
Adobo in Spanish means the method of pickling or preserving a dish, especially fish, meat and vegetables. It is definitely NOT a name of a dish; however in the Philippines the word adobo is given as part of a name to the dish, for instance, Chicken Adobo, Pork Adobo, Lamb Adobo, and etcetera.
Without a doubt, whatever adobo is a ubiquitous dish in every household in the Phil. The main ingredients in a basic adobo dish are vinegar (traditionally coconut vinegar), soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns and salt.
When I told my Spanish colleague that soy sauce is used in the Filipino adobo dish, she was baffled as soy sauce is not the common ingredient in ‘pickling’ Spanish dishes. The basic ingredients in a Spanish adobo are vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and paprika powder or annatto (“poor man’s saffron”), herbs (usually oregano) and sometimes olive oil.
But, hey, not bad at all! Only one odd ingredient – the black soy sauce! The Filipinos have retained and maintained the other ingredients to this day. In some Filipino household, the red paprika powder is still used as part of the ingredient of an adobo dish. The black soy sauce is definitely a Chinese influence 😉
Either the Spanish or the Filipino method, both ways are used to preserve and enhance the flavour of the meat or seafood dish.
I made my first adobo dish last Sunday. Here’s the outcome.
Although pork is popularly used in the Philippines, I chose chicken meat as the protein ingredient of our Sunday adobo lunch.
I was happy with my adobo after a Filipina friend gave me the confidence in cooking my first ever Filipino dish, without her realizing it. Thanks, D!
I ate my first adobo at a pot-luck garden party of a common friend not so long ago. D brought her home-cooked chicken adobo. She added carrots for colour, although that’s not traditionally one of the ingredients used.
A Filipina once commented that adobo is like spaghetti. Like spaghetti, there are many ways of preparing an adobo dish. There is no hard and fast rule to conjure a plate of adobo if you keep all the basic ingredients in place.
After gathering all the information, hmmm…. adobo is definitely my cup of tea 😉
It’s easy peasy. Love it!
By the way, my Chicken Adobo recipe was inspired by my Filipina friend, D and the Panlasang Pinoy.com website. Note I have made a few tweaks here and there (in blue) by amalgamating the best of everything in one dish at one time. The outcome was exactly what I was looking for – personally – mildly spiced, tasty, fragrant and I daresay, it was an excellent adobo, for a first timer *wink*
(serves 4 -5)
• 2 lbs chicken, cut into serving pieces (I used 1.365kg or 4 chicken legs, divided into thighs and drumsticks)
• 3 pcs dried bay leaves (I used 4)
• 4 Tbsp soy sauce (It’s got to be dark soy sauce)
• 2 Tbsp vinegar (I used CRISTAL 100% natural white vinegar)
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 10 cloves garlic + ½ tsp coarse sea salt, pounded in a pestle and mortar)
• 1 to 2 cups water (I used 1 glass water)
• ¼ cup cooking oil (This was way too much. I used about 5 Tbsps corn oil for browning the chicken and sautéing the shallots)
• ½ Tbsp white sugar (I used Candico Kandij Cassonade Bruin “Brown” sugar)
• Salt (to taste)
• Whole peppercorn (I used 2 tsp whole black peppercorns)
• 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce – this was not in the recipe
• 2 tsp red paprika powder – this was not in the recipe
• ½ tsp turmeric powder – this was not in the recipe
• 2 green chillies, slit open lengthwise – this was definitely not in the recipe and btw I got these chillies from Miss B 🙂
• 2 shallots, chopped – this was not in the recipe
• 1 bunch/ plant fresh coriander leaves – this was not in the recipe (2/3 chopped and 1/3 for garnishing)
Method (own and fine-tuned) –
1. Clean the chicken thighs and drumsticks by rubbing with some coarse sea salt and rinse under cold running water.
2. Place the chicken parts in a large bowl. Add bay leaves, soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, black peppercorns, Worcestershire sauce, paprika & turmeric powders and 1 green chilli cut lengthwise. Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour (cling filmed and refrigerated)
3. Brown the chicken and save the marinade for later.
4. In a wok, sauté the chopped shallots until fragrant. Add the chicken, the rest of the marinade, water, brown sugar and 1 green chilli, slit open lengthwise. Cover and simmer on low to medium heat for 45 minutes.
5. I added chopped fresh coriander at the 30th minute of cooking time.
6. Garnish with the remaining sprigs of coriander before serving with steamed white rice and your favourite vegetables or salad.
There are no basils in this dish, but bay leaves and fresh coriander which I hope will do justice to Karen’s blog. Therefore, I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs challenge for July.
Since I ate my first ever Chicken Adobo at a potluck garden party, I thought it’s a perfect dish to link up with Four Seasons Food. Sure, I’m linking this post to Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg. The July theme is Four Seasons Food goes Al Fresco! Grab a drumstick and enjoy!
Oh by the way, I was amazed at how similar some Tagalog words are with the Malay words, but more so the Sarawak-Malay and extraordinarily, the Melanau! Here are some of the examples, from English to Tagalog.
Chicken – Manok
Pork – Baboy
Cat – Pusa
Dog – Aso
Goat – Kambing
Scissors – Gunting
Soap – Sabon
Towel – Tuwalya
Moon – Bulan
Husband – Asawa
Son – Anak
Teacher – Guro
Expensive – Mahal
Wet – Basa
Ball – Bola
Hair – Buhok
Male – Lalaki
Heaven/ Sky – Langit
Eye – Mata
Face – Mukha
Nail – Pako
Island – Pulo
Afraid – Takot
Laugh – Tawa
Head – Ulo
Foot – Paa
Brain – Utak
Debt – Utang