Filipino Adobo

One dish that we ate regularly during my childhood is adobo. It’s a dish that brings me comfort to this day. My mum would make it for dinners, and our friends would cook it when we would visit their houses. Every Filipino has their own way of cooking adobo, and I will share my very own version.

Adobo is the unofficial traditional dish of the Philippines (and should not be confused with the Mexican/Spanish/Portuguese marinades bearing the same name). It normally consists of chicken or pork, or sometimes both, braised in vinegar, and soy sauce, and delicately flavoured with black pepper and bay leaves. Once it’s cooked up the flavours mesh together to form what I can only describe as adobo-y yumminess. It’s neither salty or sour, it’s just a hearty savouriness that’s unique to Filipino adobo.

It’s so tasty and simple to make, definitely worth a try.

Filipino Adobo Recipe


Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 500 g pork belly strips (each strip cut into 3 pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 15 ml white vinegar
  • 45 ml lemon juice
  • 120 ml low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 240 ml water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

METHOD

  1. Add the chicken, pork, garlic, white vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, bay leaves and black pepper (essentially all the ingredients apart from the water and the sugar) to a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour or over night.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.
  4. Scrape the marinade from the meat (as best as possible) and set aside the marinade for later.
  5. Brown the meat in batches on a high heat. Fry each piece for roughly a minute on each side.
  6. After the meat is browned add all the pieces back into the saucepan.
  7. Add the water and bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer.
  8. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.
  9. Stir in the sugar and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

NOTES

  • Meat with a generous fat content is an absolute must in this dish as the fattiness of the meat adds to the flavour. It will not taste the same if you use chicken breast. Chicken legs or even boneless chicken thighs will work though if you’re not keen on meat on the bone.
  • Steps 3 to 6 are optional. If you are pushed for time then you can just add the marinaded meat straight to the saucepan and continue from step 7. However, I find that browning the meat in advance adds a little extra flavour.
  • If you’re not a fan of pork you can use 1kg of chicken thighs instead, either with the bone in or boneless. If using bone-in thighs then increase the simmering time in step 8 by and additional 10 minutes. Likewise this dish also works great with just pork, although I would stick to just 500 g of pork belly and use an additional 500 g of lean pork pieces to keep the fat content reasonable.
  • You can use regular light soy sauce instead of the low sodium version. I prefer the low sodium soy sauce as I’m quite conscious of my family’s salt intake. It also does not take anything away from the authenticity of the flavour.
  • Traditionally whole black peppercorns are used in this dish. Personally, I’m not keen on the crunch and intense pepperiness this causes every few mouthfuls. Hence I use freshly milled cracked black pepper instead.
  • Serve with steamed basmati rice, steamed vegetables or salad.