Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recipe: Mark's healthy Adobo

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adobo is the quintessential Filipino dish. Though adobo is a Spanish term for seasoning or marinade, the Filipino Adobo is a method of stewing with vinegar indigenous to the Philippine islands that the Spanish encountered during their colonization of the Philippines in the 1500s. They called this method of cooking Adobo. It has few ingredients and is easy to cook if you know how, but ridiculously complicated to understand if you don't appreciate the alchemy that goes into it. Pork or chicken are the common meats used in making Adobo.

I refer to my recipe as healthy not because it is low in sodium, which it's not, but because it is low in saturated fat, and makes for a good satisfying staple. You don't have to ingest all the sodium, making it healthier. I'll get to that later.

It's common for Filipinos to eyeball their cooking, so I won't be giving exacting measurements here.

- 3 or more cloves of garlic
- 3 or more dried bay leaves
- black peppercorns (see photo for a rough quantity)
- soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, water
- 1 pork loin or 2 chicken breasts

Here we go!

This recipe calls for chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into cubes. I use "Marca Pina" soy sauce and "Datu Puti" white vinegar. This dish tastes best with Filipino ingredients as we know that local recipes evolved with local ingredients in mind, albeit this locale is half-way around the world. Don't sweat it, the soy sauce and vinegar can be bought cheaply from No Frills. If you don't have them, use plain soy sauce and white vinegar. Don't use VH brand... it's a Kraft company and VH stuff sucks. Soy sauces have very different flavour profiles (enough for a separate blog post), so stick with plain or No Name.

In a pot, put just enough olive oil to saute garlic. Throw the garlic in while the oil is cold so that the garlic flavour transfers to the oil. Set the stove to high, and throw the chicken in before the garlic starts to brown.

Lightly sear the chicken till most of the outsides turn white, to lock in the juices. Vegetable oil is commonly used due to its higher smoke point and neutral flavour, but we're trying to be healthy here.

Throw in 2 shots of soy sauce

Throw in 2 shots of vinegar

Throw in 4 shots of water

The actual amounts aren't crucial, depending on how much sauce you want. What is important is the relative ratio of soy sauce, vinegar and water.

Toss in the dried bay leaves and whole black peppercorns. Don't grind the pepper. You want the pepper flavour without the pepper heat.

Now for the tricky part. Assuming your stove was on high this whole time, wait for everything to start boiling then put a lid on the pot. Let it boil for a minute or two then reduce the temperature to medium. I realize that simmering might keep this thing boiling even at a low of 2 or 3, but it's important that you keep it at medium or 5 for the chemical reaction to occur. And don't take the lid off to look at it because this will cause an immediate drop in temperature. Wait 30 minutes.

This is the crap shoot part. You know that it's done when the vinegar smell piping off the edges of the pot loses its acidity and turns into a sweet smelling steam. This miraculously happens instantly. Make sure that you don't boil all of the sauce off after this, though you can keep it on the stove longer if you want a richer tasting sauce. The sauce goes well on white jasmine rice. Most of the sodium is in the sauce, so you can just regulate the amount you use on your rice. But you'll probably want to use a lot.

That's it! Chicken Adobo!!! You are now Filipino :)

Danger! Now for the Adobo I'm not allowed to have:

- First off, use vegetable oil instead of olive oil.

- Use fatty slices of pork (ex. rump), or chicken thighs or drumsticks with the skins.

- After cooking as above, pull the meat out and refry in a separate pan with a little oil till you get brown and crispy outsides, whilst some of that fat is rendering off. Trust me those crispy bits will have concentrated sweetness and tartness that will blow your mind away.

- Toss everything back into the sauce. Yes that's both meat and oil. You'll see a layer of oil separate from the black sauce. Spoon both layers onto hot fresh jasmine white rice... let me repeat, jasmine white rice. Yummy!!! Don't forget to see your doctor about that cholesterol of yours.


Dan said...

Oooh, looks great! For a second, i thought those were shots of vodka :) Great looking hearty meal!

Jiggy said...

Hey Mark. You should try putting chicken and pork together while you stew it. The taste is a whole lot better. In some variations, add softboiled or hardboiled egg along with it.

Tasting Toronto said...

Yes chicken & pork does taste better! I haven't tried it with egg though. Is that a regional thing?

Anonymous said...

30 minutes with the meat in? That won' dry out the meat?

Tasting Toronto said...

Pork and chicken tend to be forgiving. There must be a reason I've never seen beef used. There's no way around the cooking method, otherwise the chemical reaction won't happen. The best adobos taste sharp without tasting like vinegar. Filipino grandmas will always point out that your vinegar is "raw" if you screw it up. Besides, it's an acid bath, so tenderness isn't usually an issue. And trust me, the acidity will keep you salivating, so a dry mouth isn't a problem.

Anonymous said...

I've tried this recipe but found the chicken breasts to be too dry. I have tried using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and they're a great alternative.

lisa from Houston, Tx

Tasting Toronto said...

Hey Lisa,

Good point - I think another alternative to make it juicier would be to cook the chicken separately from the sauce, then throw it in when the sauce is done.

We like it drier because it's easier to shred leftovers for pandesal, which is a Filipino sweet bun (it almost looks like pulled pork on a bun: here's a pic from an old post of ours


Anonymous said...

Have you tried this with tofu?

Tasting Toronto said...

Never have tried it with tofu - imagine it could be pretty tasty though! Let me know if you give it a try!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
crawl99 said...

This is awesome! Thanks for the recipe! I'll surely cook this tonight! :)

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