Funny enough, one thing my wife Cathy and I were really craving for after our long out-of-town shoot was pork. Partly because we’d spent part of the time in a Muslim-dominated area and were eating, out of curiosity, at Muslim eateries (great food BTW), and partly because fresh seafood was always available. But when we got home, we wanted pork. Since we also have to leave again in a day or two, I decided to combine my craving with a cooking method that will preserve the food for the time we’re away. Thus, adobo.
Adobo is a classic sailor's/ traveller’s food, because it’s cooked in vinegar which helps it last longer, even without refrigeration if necessary. In fact it even tastes better the longer it’s been around. This time I went for the classic Filipino way of doing it, which is to combine pork and chicken in one pot.
- 1/2 kg chicken
- 1/2 kg pork belly
- 2/3 cup red cane vinegar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 6-10 cloves garlic (about 2 tbsp), crushed
- 1-2 tsp black pepper
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp chili flakes (my personal preference)
- 2 cups water
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil (2 if you’re using lean cuts)
The usual method of cooking adobo is to just throw all the ingredients together and boil em into submission. I’ve added a few touches learned from cooking Indian food that seems to result in a better adobo, so I now saute the garlic, pepper, chili flakes and bay leaves first in 1 tbsp hot oil, using a deep saucepan.
Then add the chicken and pork, and fry them until lightly brown, stirring constantly – you have to stir often enough to prevent the garlic from burning. Now add the vinegar and soy sauce. Turn the heat to high and let it boil, uncovered, until the sharp vinegary smell has mellowed to a sweetish-savory aroma.
Add water, let boil again, then turn the heat down and let simmer for about half an hour or until the meats are tender. Classic chicken-pork adobo is cooked until the chicken starts flaking off the bone, about 45 minutes or longer.
Then it’s time for my mom’s touch. When the meats are tender, I pour the sauce out, put the pot back on high heat, and add about 2-3 tbsp of sauce and oil. Since I was using pork belly, I could use the fat from the cooking instead of more cooking oil (uh, yeah, my heart, but trust me this is good!).
Fry the meats until you get a nice brown glaze on them, or even until crispy if you wish. It’s this refrying step that adds in that kick of extra flavor that elevates this dish from survival food to heavenly favorite! Then add in the remaining sauce, and serve with hot rice (or bread, or potatoes; adobo makes for good sandwich material too).