When you think of Filipino Cuisine or Filipino Recipes I bet the first thing that’ll come to mind adobo. Indeed, the popular and much-beloved adobo is the favorite staple among Filipino dishes and virtually every household in the Philippines have their version of the classic Pinoy recipe of adobo.
Adobo posses the ultimate flavors that incorporate what the Filipinos love best in their cuisine. The sweet and salty flavors of adobo describe the classic Filipino palate. Its flavors are the ultimate panlasang Pinoy.
The Origins of the Filipino Adobo
The name adobo is given by the first Spaniards that came ashore on the islands of the Philippines and it means ‘marinade.’ But just like many of the other traditional dishes in the Philippines, adobo’s origins are widely disputed. Some argue that adobo is the Filipino version of the Spanish dish of a similar name and the Filipino adobo is often categorized with the versions of adobo found in Latin America. Countries such as Mexico and Cuba also their version of the adobo dish that uses a variety of spices and fewer liquids.
However, it is argued that even before the Spaniards came to the shores of the Philippines, Filipinos were already cooking an unnamed dish very similar to adobo, the Spaniards who saw the process merely gave it its name. The major evidence that backed this theory is that there are already ingredients used in cooking adobo found in the Philippines even before the Spaniards came and invaded.
Vinegar was introduced by Malay settlers in the islands. Vinegar and salt have been used by the first Filipinos as a way of preserving food in the hot climate by marinating their meat in this mixture, even before the Chinese came to trade with our ancestors. And Chinese traders introduced soy sauce to the Philippine islands.
It’s easy to forget that the word adobo isn’t really a recipe but a method of cooking meat which is to marinate it. The Spaniards saw this method is used by the native Filipinos to cook their dishes and labeled the dishes that were marinated in vinegar as ‘adobo de los naturales’ or adobo by the natives. It’s a name that stuck and it’s a name that we’re still using hundreds of years later to refer to our unofficial national dish.
Adobo: the National Dish of the Philippines
Although it’s not officially recognized as such, many already referred to adobo as the Philippines’ national dish. The Spanish adobo recipe from Latin America comprises of about three different spices and is characterized as a spicy seasoning added to meats and other dishes. What differentiates the Filipino adobo from its Latin American counterpart is that the meat is primarily cooked with vinegar and soy sauce as the main ingredients.
Traditional Filipino adobo is usually chicken or other varieties of meat that’s marinated and then stewed in a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce. The soy sauce gives the meat its dark color and tangy aroma while the vinegar adds acidity to the sauce and tenderizes the meat. The most basic adobo is seasoned with garlic, bay leaves, and pepper. But over the years evolved to add extra ingredients to the mix such as onion, ginger, and some vegetables like cubes of potatoes.
Of course, the adobo wouldn’t be complete if it’s not paired with a plate full of fluffy, white rice that’ll observe the tangy sauce made from the mixture of the traditional Filipino adobo.
Along with many traditional Filipino dishes, it can be said that adobo is a dish that’s realized from the mixture of different cultures, from the Malays, Chinese, and Spanish. Every household in the Philippines has its version of the traditional adobo recipe and each island or region in the Philippines has experimented and evolved its version of the traditional adobo.
Because of these experiments, the taste of the Filipino adobo evolved and become more diverse where you can find different versions of the classic adobo recipe as you travel through different corners of the Philippines. Many of these experimental recipes are now popularized throughout the archipelago.
Here is the compilation of the many different adobo recipes in the Philippines. I’m sure that I’ve missed some out there.
The classic Filipino adobo is made with three main ingredients: chicken, vinegar, and soy sauce. Add in some seasoning of garlic, pepper, and bay leaves and you’re good to go. No true Filipino will ever claim that they’ve never tasted and loved the taste of chicken adobo. Of course, the classic chicken adobo is never complete without being paired with a plateful of hot, fluffy, white rice.
Pork is a popular alternative to replace the chicken in the classic adobo recipe. The pork is marinated the same as the chicken in a pot full of the mixture of vinegar and soy sauce along with other ingredients to give added flavor. I find it a lot oilier compared to the classic chicken adobo though, maybe because of the fats that came with the pork cuts.
Beef adobo is prepared the same way as chicken and pork adobo. The same method of marinating the meat in the classic mixture is also applied. The beef pieces can be tougher and hardier compared to the chicken and pork though, so beef adobo is stewed for far longer on the stove compared to the other two recipes or cooked in a pressure cooker to make faster time.
Check out this Chicken, Pork, and Beef Adobo with Atcharang Papaya Recipe if you want to try and incorporate all three adobo recipes.
This version of adobo originated in the region of Cavite where turmeric root crops are abundant. The turmeric gives adobo na dilaw its signature yellow coloring. You can use any of the three main types of meat with this recipe and the added hints of ginger along with the turmeric make the flavor of this adobo recipe give a mighty kick.
Adobong Puti is said to be the purest version of the classic adobo as the soy sauce (which was incorporated into the recipe when it was introduced by Chinese traders) is eliminated. What remains is the pure basic flavor that results from the basic mixture of vinegar, garlic, and peppercorn. This adobo recipe is very popular among the Visayas region of the Philippines.
Originated from the Bicol region of the Philippines known for their love of incorporating their dishes with gata or coconut milk and sili or chili. The Bicolanos did just that with their version of adobo that resulted in Adobo sa Gata that transforms the classic adobo into a paler, spicier, and creamier version of itself.
Adobong pusit or squid adobo is a popular version of the adobo recipe amongst the coastal areas in the country where meat is scarce but seafood such as squid is abundant. The adobo sauce is further blackened by the squid ink that can sometimes intimidate those who first saw it. But the main ingredients such as vinegar, garlic, pepper, and soy sauce is still used. The squid gives it the flavor of the sea and chili is sometimes added to give an extra kick.
Check out this Adobong Pusit sa Gata for a paler and creamier version of adobong pusit.
Somewhat a new recipe to use for adobo, adobong hipon uses shrimp instead of chicken or pork to marinate in the traditional adobo mixture. Served along with a plateful of fluffy white rice, this new take of a seafood version of adobo is slowly gaining popularity across the Philippines.
Check ou this Adobong Tahong sa Gata Recipe for another seafood adobo alternative.
Always known for their resourcefulness, Filipinos created the crispy adobo or Adobong Malutong by scraping off leftover meat from pork adobo or chicken adobo. These flakes of leftover meat are fried in hot oil until they’re brown and crispy. These crispy adobo flakes are known for their long shelf-life, especially if they’re refrigerated. They are also quite versatile as an ingredient as the crispy adobo flakes are commonly paired with almost any dish, especially stews or kare-kare.
Adobo sa Buko
Originated from parts of Southern Luzon where there is an abundance of coconuts, it’s no wonder that Filipino resourcefulness is once again evident in their version of adobo called adobo sa buko. It’s quite popular in Souther Luzon wherein coconut milk and coconut meat are both incorporated into the traditional adobo recipe. The dish that results from this becomes lighter in color and is light, sweet, and earthy in flavor.
Check out this recipe of Ginataang Adobo that also incorporates coconut milk in the recipe.
The adobo recipes listed above are just the tip of the iceberg of the many versions of the beloved adobo seen throughout the country.
Almonente, C. (2016, May 10). Know the different kinds of adobo in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.yummy.ph/news-trends/different-kinds-of-adobo-in-the-philippines-a1101-20160510
De La Cruz, E. (2017, February 19). A brief history of adobo, the Philippines’ national dish. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/asia/philippines/articles/a-brief-history-of-adobo-the-philippines-national-dish/
Estrella, S. (2018, November 27). Adobo: the history of a national favorite. Retrieved from https://www.pepper.ph/the-history-of-adobo/
Moncel, B. (2019, August 12). All about Filipino adobo. Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/filipino-adobo-1328775