Adobo is to the Philippines as curry is to India. Ask any 10 Filipinos how to make Adobo and you will likely
get 10 very good answers. Many say that Chicken Adobo is the national dish, reflecting influences from
Chinese, Spanish and indigenous cuisines.
Basically, adobo refers to a process where meat
or fish is braised in vinegar and seasoned to be both
sweet and salty. The protein may also be stewed,
deep fried, grilled, broiled or pan fried to get the
edges of the meat nice and crispy. It is most always
served with the broth/sauce created during cooking.
The sharpness of the vinegar is softened by the
length of time spent on the fire.
Adobo is so popular that there are a few Filipino snacks which are labeled "adobo flavored" including some
nut, chip, noodle soup and corn cracker products.
Do not confuse this style of cooking with Spanish or Latin American adobo, which can involve a non-
vinegar based wet or dry spice rub. For example, Puerto Rican style adobo can be a dry blend of spices which
may include garlic powder, salt, black pepper, oregano and dried citrus zest to be sprinkled on meats before
cooking. Food stores sell prepared blends like this under the Goya Foods brand, among others.
The Spanish invaded the Philippines in the late 1500’s and so they met with the Filipino stewing process.
They referred to this method as "adobo" since it is loosely similar to the Spanish adobo, which is their word for
marinade, sauce or seasoning.
What sets Filipino adobo apart is the use of vinegar as the major ingredient, along with the use of Asian
soy sauce. As you explore this recipe in your own kitchen you may find that having too much vinegar can
overpower the dish, making it too tart. Too little vinegar can dilute the flavor. The soy sauce provides a salty
counter to the sour vinegar. Have fun experimenting according to your own tastes!
So here is another recipe from my sister-in-law Bernie, who is from the Philippines. She grew up in San
Juan, Metro Manila, and learned this family recipe from her mother. Bernie says that the native Philippine
vinegar is called "sukang paombong" but that she substitutes white vinegar while her Mom prefers apple cider