The word adobo may bring to mind Spanish cuisine; however, while the word is Spanish, the cooking method is decidedly Filipino. As in most warm climates, early people in the Philippines looked for methods of preserving their food, choosing to stew meats in vinegar to aid them in lasting longer. When the Spanish colonized the area in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, they termed the process adobo, similar to their process of marinating or seasoning meats.
Today, the indigenous process remains popular in the Philippines and refers to meat, seafood and vegetables marinated and stewed in a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce (a hint at the Chinese influences) and garlic. The Filipino comfort food is typically made with chicken; chicken adobo, or adobong manok, is the unofficial national food of the country. Pork (adobong baboy) is also popular. Traditional seasonings include bay leaves and black peppercorns. The cooking process leaves the meat flavorful, tender and tangy, accompanied by fluffy white rice.
Through the years, variations increased in popularity. The basic staples — vinegar (either coconut, rice or cane), soy sauce, garlic — must remain to be considered adobo, but from there the recipe may be adapted to unique taste preferences. Some people prefer to fry the meat post-stewing to add a crispy texture to the dish. Coconut milk mellows the sauce, while incorporating sugar and honey adds a teriyaki-like sweetness to the marinade. Ginger and onion may be added to the common seasoning mix of bay leaves and black peppercorns, and fruits such as pineapple, banana and mango sometimes garnish the dish.
Regional variations of the dish high in protein, iron and Vitamin A also exist. In Cavite, mashed pork liver substitutes for chicken or pork. In Batangas, annatto seasoning is added, giving the dish an orange hue. Cooks in Laguna include turmeric, while the south popularized the coconut milk version.
Visitors to the Philippines should be sure to sample all the varieties of adobo available. After starting with chicken, consider these other options: adobong baka, prepared with beef; adobong pugô, with quail; adobong hipon, the shrimp version; or adobong labong, with bamboo shoots. More adventurous eaters may order adobong sawâ, palakâ or kamaru. Not for the faint of heart, these preparations use snake, frog and crickets.
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