This week Mark takes you through the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. Slow braised, tender pieces of meat in a salty sour liquor made from Filipino soy sauce and cane vinegar. This dish is so close to the heart of Filipino cuisine, that it even sparks debate over standardisation and what constitutes the ‘real’ Adobo from region to region.
Meat - commonly made with pork, adobo is very much a meaty dish. The amount of acid that is being used means a flavourful cut of meat is key, so pork belly works wonderfully given its high fat content. The slow cooking process renders out a lot of fat - mingling with the garlic, soy and vinegar to create a rich sauce. The name adobo comes from the Spanish word ‘Adobar’ which means to braise, and the real advantages of braises are to take a piece of meat that may be a little tough, and to break down the connective tissue to create a beautifully tender cut.
Vinegar - this dish takes its signature flavour from one of the most important assets in the Philippine pantry - vinegar. Acidity is a pillar of the cuisine and through the process of slow cooking, a deep sweetness is also extracted from this prized ingredient. The vinegar that we will be supplying you with is a cane vinegar, made from Filipino sugar cane. With a slightly milder flavour than an apple cider, or white wine vinegar, this ingredient provides acidity without overpowering the dish. However, the cane vinegar will not only flavour the adobo, but also tenderise the meat as well.
Rice - as the old saying goes ‘rice is life’ - and a Filipino dish isn’t complete without rice. Here, Mark uses some steamed jasmine rice to soak up the rich adobo liquor. This rice, which is grown extensively across the Philippines, is known for its lightly floral aroma and slightly firmer bite than other strains such as basmati for instance.
Meat - As Mark states, Adobo is really a method of cooking rather than a dish in itself, and this means that the meat you choose is really up to your personal preference. Chicken and pork are the most common additions but you can really choose any meat (or cut of meat) that you like - just remember allow for a bit of fat content, as the cooking process works best when the meat doesn’t dry out quickly!
Vinegar - arguably the most important ingredient in the dish, vinegar is required to provide that signature sourness that Adobo is famed for. But this doesn’t mean there is only one type of vinegar you should use. Some of the more traditional European vinegars such as apple cider, white wine or even balsamic vinegar can work in adobo - you will just need to take a little extra care, given these varieties have a slightly harsher flavour than cane vinegar. You could also try using rice vinegar given its milder sourness as well.
Fortifying the sauce - there are any number of Adobo varieties out there, with plenty of additions to the final sauce. Some use coconut milk to round out the sauce and make it a bit milder, some add in chopped chillies to give a kick of spice, and some add a bit of brown sugar to create an almost caramel-like flavour. The same goes for adding, different aromatics and spices. While Mark calls for a whole head of garlic, some regions will include onion, spring onions and even ginger.