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Mar 8, 2010 05:01 PM

Palm vinegar -- green?

I've been inspired by another thread on adobo. (Called "OBSESSED with adobo") An amazing thread with recipes, history, linguistics, family stories, everything.

Anyway, inspired by that, my SO made an adobo recipe from the All About Braising book. The recipe said that traditionally the dish is made with palm vinegar which is a bright green vinegar made from palm sap.

I'm curious about the ingredient. A link on the adobo thread goes to a page on filipino vinegars. That one shows palm vinegar that is clear or cloudy. Supposedly, it has a bit of a citrusy taste and the All About Braising recipe uses some lime zest to try to replicate the citrus (while using white wine vinegar.)

So, is some palm vinegar green? Is that a different kind of palm vinegar? Or is some of it colored green, maybe to highlight the citrus notes?

(Here's the link on filipino vinegars:

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  1. I'm Filipino--born and bred--and I've never seen (or heard of) bright green vinegar, palm of otherwise. Most of our artisanal vinegars are not clear, but rather cloudy, ranging from whitish to grayish to beige-ish and even reddish. I'd be concerned about green vinegar because neither the palm sap, nor sugarcane juice, nor coconut water that are traditionally used for vinegar have any green in them. (Boy, am I ever missing Sam I am. . .) And the only other green I can think of would be algae, which I cannot imagine would be a good thing in vinegar.

    As to the Philippine vinegars commonly sold in the U.S., well, they're rather flat tasting. For the sake of consistency and government regulation, they've been watered down or tarted up to make a consistent, boring product. I sometimes bring vinegar from the Philippines, but when I run out, I don't hesitate to combine the other vinegars I have on hand to get some depth and complexity: rice vinegar with cider vinegar and a touch of black Chinese vinegar or even some lemon or calamansi juice. The blend depends on how much tang I want in my adobo, keeping in mind that the sharpness of the vinegar mellows a lot with cooking and over time. I almost never eat adobo the same day I make it--it tastes much better the next day.

    As you saw from the thread, adobo is a dish you make your own, and much of the fun lies in the experimentation. I hope you enjoy making the adobo almost as much as you will enjoy the end product (eventually :-))

    1 Reply
    1. re: pilinut

      Thank you for this.

      Appreciate the advice.

      We will be making a batch based on the recipes on the "obsessed" list.
      Aiming for something with more flavor than the All About Braising version we tried.

      Will do some experimenting as you suggest.

    2. like pilinut, i'm born and bred filipino too and throughout the 7000 plus islands of the archipelago, none of our vinegar is green. if you like filipino style adobo, i suggest you try making it with calamansi juice instead of vinegar. and try to get a more neutral soy sauce - premium japanese kikkoman works great with sushi and sashimi but is a tad too strong for filipino dishes.

      7 Replies
      1. re: epabella

        Do you buy calamansi juice? Or do you juice your own? (Don't think I've ever seen them in our markets here.)

        And what kind of soy sauce would you recommend?

        (Thanks for your help!)

        1. re: karykat

          i have a calamansi bush in my garden - it's one of the easiest things to grow in the heat of the tropics. i'm told yuzu is quite close to calamansi so that could be an alternative. check the asian stores for SILVER SWAN (less refined soy that's a filipino staple) or something indonesian or malaysian.

          there are some filipino adobo recipes that do away with soy sauce. southern tagalog and bicolano style adobe is quite dry and instead of the dark brown hue from soy sauce, it's an oily red from atchuete (more familiar to you as achote).

          true manila style of eating adobo would be with fried rice, fried egg and atchara (papaya chutney) while sat in the shade as the sun bakes the metropolis - pretty much the kind of days we've been having since the end of february.

          1. re: epabella

            ive seen and even bought frozen Calamansi juice in SEA stores in NYC - the place on Mulberry street has it. Have to say its still languishing in the back of my freezer,

            1. re: epabella

              I have a feeling the calamansi bush would not do well in our snow and ice! But I can get yuzu at our asian stores and will look for the Silver Swan there too.

              1. re: karykat

                keep in mind i'm advising you on how to keep it authentic, adobo could very well improve if you apply non-filipino ideas on it too. filipinos in hawaii have reinvented it by using worchestershire and adding pineapple. some places in manila have what you call FRIED adobo (i think this was invented in CHEDENGS at makati ave corner kalayaan back in the 90s) - basic pork adobo that's drained of the savory sauce, deep fried and served with lots of garlic (similar to shredded steak ala pobre). some places add hard-boiled quail eggs. i like adding a dried native mushroom known as 'tengang daga'. by all means, be creative with your adobo.

          2. re: epabella

            I think some calamansi would perk things up nicely--especially for adobo that's been sitting around for a while, or when the vinegar just doesn't have enough of a tang. But calamansi (especially green calamansi), and other pure citrus juices might be too acidic to use by themselves, especially as a 1:1 substitute for vinegar. Hmmm. . . I wonder what would happen if one used orange juice? That would take us in the direction of the Mexican pibil, wouldn't it?

            1. re: pilinut

              sometime in the 90s on a trip to tagaytay, i saw an old lady use pure calamansi in her adobo. she said it was TAAL style adobo. not familiar with pibil though, there aren't any authentic mexican places in manila - lots of pretentious fakes though.