Sunday, April 24, 2011


Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen Blogs
In a word, adobo translates to comfort. And when it comes to comfort food, nothing beats adobo in my mind. This dish is one of the few things that I can eat everyday and not be sick of it five days later. I remember eating this dish not just for the meat but for the sauce as well. I could actually live off the sauce and quite surely skyrocket my carbohydrate intake through the roof. This is the main reason why adobo is considered a poor man's food. With just a tinge of the sauce mixed in with rice, it takes a very meager meal into something more satisfying. For this dish, it is all about the flavor and it has lots of it. 

Chicken or pork are the two main meat choices used to make adobo. If you cannot make up your mind, you can use both. Every region has a slightly different version of this dish but the main ingredients remain very basic: meat, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. The rest are just incidentals that either enhance or give the dish a kind of regional stamp that allows you to savor it in different ways. Adobo can also range from having lots of sauce to barely having a sauce at all. The latter version was something my Mom used to make when we travel for the simple reason of ease of transport. Less sauce equals lesser chances of a messy spill.  

My Mom also made a version of adobo with beef but without the vinegar to pack me lunch at school. That was one of my favorite lunch meals ever. The version came about but it has nothing to do with her being a culinary enthusiast, it was simply born out of necessity. Both my Mom and my Dad worked so every morning, the food we have for breakfast is the food we pack for lunch and the beef dish my Mom developed allowed her to cook it at night with very little fuss and reheat it in the morning for an instant meal to go. I've described this to her when I went home for a visit but she could not remember how she made this dish at all and my feeble attempts to recreate the dish did not yield the result that I was hoping for. I also discovered that she now favored adding ginger to her adobo, something that I really do not like at all. I love ginger, just not in my adobo. 

My version is really a synthesis of a variation from my friends from Manila (they cooked adobo slightly differently) and from how we made it in our family as I remembered it. The thing to remember about this dish is that you can never go wrong with it. If you accidentally add too much vinegar, you can correct it later by adding just a tad bit sugar. If the sauce gets too salty for your taste, you can add water to thin it out and you have more yummy sauce to enjoy. I've also tried using fancier vinegars from red cider to balsamic to red wine and even raspberry vinegar. They lend a certain flavor to the dish but then again, it really depends on whether you like the extra flavor or not. Traditionally, cane vinegar is the perfect ingredient for this dish but since it can be a challenge finding cane vinegar here in the US, I have managed to make it work with regular white distilled vinegar. You can sometimes find Del Monte cane vinegar in the grocery but they are quite hard to find so don't beat yourself about this issue. It is a non-issue. Now, on to the recipe:

Adobo ala Danilo

 2-3 lbs cut-up chicken (remove the skin if you so prefer)
 4-5 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 tbsp soy sauce
2/3 cup vinegar
3-4 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup water 
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Sauté the garlic and onion in the vegetable oil until softened. Add the
    bay leaves and sauté for another minute.

2. Add the chicken pieces and season with a pinch or two of salt and a
    few turns of black pepper. Brown on all sides (I get impatient doing
    this part so I usually skip it).

3. Add the vinegar, water and soy sauce and simmer over low heat
    covered for about 30 minutes. At this point, add the sugar and
    continue to simmer until the chicken pieces are cooked. 

4. Take the chicken pieces out of the pan and turn the heat to medium
    high and reduce the sauce in half. Adjust the flavor with salt and
    pepper and make sure you have a good balance of sweet, sour and

5. Return the chicken pieces and cook for another five minutes for the
    flavor to infuse the meat. 

6. Serve hot over steamed white rice.

The cooking time is based on the meat I used which is chicken. It will take longer if you use pork so adjust accordingly. Also, if you combine both chicken and pork, just remove the chicken pieces early to allow the pork to finish cooking.

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