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Can I like Philippine Adobo?

Bada Bing May 2, 2011 03:34 PM

I'm always curious about unfamiliar dishes that people whom I respect rave about, so I've tried three times to make Philippine chicken adobo, according to reasonably credible-seeming recipes. (Alas, there is no Philippine restaurant around here.) Most recently I tried this recipe from Splendid Table:

http://www.publicradio.org/columns/sp...

Anyway, each time, I have found the vinegar component completely uncharming. The sauce itself also seems pretty monodimensional.

True, with this recipe, I did not use palm vinegar but instead the suggested substitute of white vinegar. But after doing everything else as called for, I found the sauce unappealing, and I ended up (this time) adding hoisin, brown sugar and a few drops of sesame oil to the liquid, also reducing it a bit extra, to turn it into something I care to eat. (Now it's tasty, but in a vaguely Chinese way.

)

I remain uncertain about this ballyhooed national dish. Maybe I just don't cotton to it? But I do like other sour preparations, like Sauerbraten. Maybe the recipes that get the most raves are significantly different? (I've seen recipes that have a lower proportion of vinegar and that also add some sweet, but haven't yet tried that).

Also, I'd like to hear the viscosity level that people generally want from this sauce. When I reduced the sauce by half according to the Splendid Table recipe, it was still very fluid (not nearly any spoon-coating effect, that is). I ended up reducing it by half again.

Thanks for any tips. Maybe I'll have to conclude that the dish just isn't a thumbs-up for me. But maybe I'm still missing the boat...

  1. ROCKLES May 2, 2011 03:53 PM

    I learned from a Lola (filipino for grandma) and cant give you a recipe because she eye-balled it, but we used rice wine vinegar. It seems to balance out with the sugar and soy sauce very well. you might try going on a Filipino Recipe sight and trying one of theirs. or switch it over and make steak with it instead of chicken and let it marinade over night before you cook it, then flour and sear it before the boiling process

    2 Replies
    1. re: ROCKLES
      Bada Bing May 2, 2011 04:37 PM

      Thanks. About balancing the sugar, though, I should note that the Splendid Table recipe contains no sugar or other sweetener at all. On tasting it myself, I kept thinking: no way is this flying (for me) without some sweetness added...

      1. re: Bada Bing
        ROCKLES May 2, 2011 05:41 PM

        Lola always added brown sugar to the recipe

    2. chefj May 2, 2011 05:00 PM

      The recipe you linked to seems quite odd to me. I have never seen a Filipino Adobo recipe with tomatoes and olive oil in it.
      There are many variations on the theme but basically Vinegar, Black pepper, Bay and Garlic are the stars here. Soy adds a back bone to the sauce and some umami.
      The sauce is thinner, broth like really. If you want a little more body, you could dust your protein with flour before you pan fry. That will lend some starch to the sauce when you are simmering.
      I try to use pork butt or/and chicken legs and thighs.
      Personally I love Adobo but I could see how it might not be everyones cup of tea.

      1. Caitlin McGrath May 2, 2011 06:05 PM

        I don't know if you've seen this somewhat exhaustive thread, but it covers lots of permutations of spicing, vinegars, ratios, etc.: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/619604

        1. JungMann May 3, 2011 08:09 AM

          The Splendid Table's adobo recipe is dissimilar to my own, but it still retains the general outline of what a traditional adobo is all about: acid, salt, alliums and pepper. I'm of the mind that adobo benefits from a day or two of aging before one browns the meat in the fat that rises to the top and reduces the sauce for service. As to the viscosity, I reduce the braising liquid (apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and sugar) to about a quarter of the initial volume. The result is a thickened, glossy sauce that is not quite spoon-coating but rich with the flavor of caramelization and a floral essence from the peppercorns.

          If your problem with adobo is its simplicity, you might be happier with similar, but more highly seasoned recipes such as paksiw or humba. They have additional aromatics like star anise, cinnamon, ginger, fermented black beans, thyme or oregano added to the typical vinegar and soy base.

          1. mucho gordo May 3, 2011 09:04 AM

            The best adobo is made with pork and plenty of whole black peppercorns.

            1. y
              yoshidoki May 3, 2011 11:04 AM

              When I was learning to cook Adobo, I was given these bits of advice:
              1) mix the soy sauce/ vinegar in a bowl first, to taste if the balance is acceptable and adjust proportions as necessary.
              2) don't use an aluminum pan to avoid a reaction with the vinegar
              3) after pouring the soy/vinegar mixture over the meat, do not touch or stir it until after it boils, otherwise the vinegar taste would be sharp

              I agree that the recipe you linked does not sound like a traditional adobo, but as I once read somewhere, there are 7100 islands in the Philippines and just as many ways to cook adobo.

              If you'd like to see other versions, this recipe is similar to what my family cook would make for quick dinners http://homecookingrocks.com/myras-chicken-adobo/ but this one http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/... is the way that my grandmother would prepare it

              1. Bada Bing May 3, 2011 12:35 PM

                Thanks for all these thoughts. I notice on comparing more recipes here and elsewhere that the one I recently used is definitely high on the vinegar and low on the soy/sweet elements, compared to many others.

                I'm willing to try again sometime, and maybe using pork instead or as well as chicken, which sounds great.

                1. absurdnerdbird May 3, 2011 01:04 PM

                  Mine version:
                  - no tomato
                  - coconut vinegar
                  - vinegar:soy closer to 1:1
                  - less garlic
                  - skinless thighs, brown first in veg oil not olive
                  It's pretty popular in my house.

                  1. mrbigshotno.1 May 3, 2011 03:10 PM

                    When I first started cooking for a living I worked/learned under Philipinos and everyone I knew and worked with had their own way of making Adobo. Adjust the sauce ingrediants to your taste, you want a thicker sauce? then starch it.

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