These are the answers I’ve come up with:
- Who needs another adobo recipe?
- There are other authorities on Filipino cooking.
- There’s no way I’ll make it look appetizing. Adobo is brown and often looks unappealing to uninitiated eyes.
- I wanted my first adobo post to feature my traditional recipe and I deviated a bit on this one.
At the end of the day (literally), here I am sharing it with you due to another question. Why not?
- There may be many adobo recipes out there already but they’re not mine. There’s room for one more, right? After all, it took quite a few attempts before I came up with a recipe that came close to my mother’s version (which I think is perfect). I couldn’t just use her recipe because she never measures anything so I ended up combining three different ones to arrive at the current water/vinegar/soy sauce proportions I use today. Lots of trial and error.
- Having said that, I still don’t consider myself an authority on adobo but I did grow up eating it and I was lucky enough to be raised by wonderful cooks. I know what adobo should taste like, or at least the way I would be happy with it. Adobo is a nuanced dish–it may be simple to prepare but it requires a balancing act. As I mentioned above, the right proportions on the liquids is necessary to achieve the perfect balance between salty, tart and just a hint of sweet. I’ve tasted many that are as boring and flat as this dish tends to look; a pity really, since when done right, adobo is brightly flavored and multi-dimensional despite (or perhaps because of) its few, humble ingredients.
- My husband was away skiing with his buddies recently so I spent that entire weekend playing around with my new makeshift food photography “studio” (read: cardboard box and white paper). And as it happened, adobo ended up being one of my subjects. While adobo is served either “wet” (my usual preparation) with its braising liquid (the sauce) or “dry” where the meat is fried after cooking, I opted to share with you the dry version here. I’ll share both preparation methods with you below.
- Though I have prepared it many times before, I’ve always cooked adobo with chicken and never with pork. First deviation. I also experimented by marinating the meat first in non-traditional adobo ingredients (kecap manis and white balsamic vinegar) and broiling it before proceeding with the normal cooking process. Second and third deviations. But…I was very happy with the results. The finished dish tasted exactly like I had hoped it would. The kecap manis provided the mild sweetness that is typically achieved by a longer cooking time (or by adding a bit of sugar). The pre-broiling of the meat also gave the dish a nice color and kept the small-ish pieces of meat from falling apart while braising. I browned the meat again after cooking and drizzled some sauce over it immediately before serving.
Oh, by the way, I experimented further with this recipe by adding some liver to it to make it even richer. I liked it a lot but I won’t make you do it, too.
- 2 – 2 1/4 lbs pork (I used boneless pork ribs though it’s more common to use pork belly)
- 3 – 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 large onion or 1 small to medium
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 – 1 cup vinegar (I use sugarcane vinegar which is slightly less acidic than regular distilled vinegar)
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup soy sauce
For pre-browning the pork (optional)
- 2 tbsp kecap manis
- 2 tbsp regular soy sauce
- 1 – 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
* The easiest way to prepare adobo is to throw all the top ingredients in a pot (try not to use a pot that’s too large to cover the meat with the liquid) and simmer uncovered until the meat is tender, usually 40 – 45 minutes.
For this version, you can first pre-brown the pork by tossing in the marinade above and broiling until at least two sides are brown. Next put the meat in a pot and add the garlic, peppercorns, the onion and bay leaves. For the liquids, start by adding only the smaller measurements above: 1 cup water, 3/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 40 minutes or until the meat is tender.
There is not one correct way to prepare adobo, it’s a matter of taste. I like mine not too tart, not too sweet and definitely not too salty. I like to taste the hint of garlic and peppercorns in the sauce so I always test the sauce several times during the cooking period. I let the pot simmer for about 20 minutes then I see what it may need. I don’t really recommend tasting too soon before this because the vinegar flavor takes time to mellow out. Also the variety of soy sauce and vinegar you use will affect the final product so just use this as a guide. Lastly, for this version, I ended up adding the last 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup vinegar and the remainder of the soy sauce. This wasn’t really necessary but I prefer a lot of sauce in my adobo.
When the meat is tender, your adobo is ready. To make a “dry” adobo like I have here, you can brown some of the meat pieces in a little oil before serving. You can drizzle the sauce on top or serve on the side with rice and fish sauce and jalapeño peppers as a condiment.
One last thing, like most braised dishes, adobo tastes even better the next day but don’t let that stop you from digging into it as soon as it finishes cooking!