Monday 13 May 2013


If there is one dish that a Filipino should learn how to cook, it should be adoboIt is the quintessential Filipino cuisine. It is a very simple dish with only a few ingredients, yet every adobo is as different as the person who cooks it.

Although chicken adobo is more known outside the Philippines, it is pork adobo that is the original dish and more loved by the native folks. This is due to the fact that filipinos are avid pork lovers and there is probably no better way to cook pork but as adobo.

Back home, pigs are happier, tastier but fattier. The belly, especially, has a very thick layer of fat. When cooked as adobo, these fat melt and and help caramelize the sauce while keeping the meat succulent. I used to hate this dish because I found it too fatty. Thankfully, the pork here in the UK is a lot leaner.

A reasonable amount of fat is essential to the taste and texture of a proper adobo. I use bone-in belly rashers which has both the bone and fat layers that make any stew extra delicious. When the dish is done and the fat has helped to develop the taste of the dish, it can be skimmed or trimmed off. 

My adobo is very basic and has the three essentials: garlic, vinegar and soy sauce. This dish was invented in the pre-refrigeration days and those ingredients were intended to pickle the meat so it won't spoil. A good adobo should not taste acidic. I use balsamic vinegar because that has a mellower and sweeter flavour than cider or white wine vinegar. Some people add in a bay leaf but in the town I come from that would make it a different dish (asado). Although it is a very simple dish, it is the process that makes one adobo different from the rest. 

For me, it has to have a sweet caramelized sauce. This counterbalances the acidity of the vinegar. After stewing the adobo in the marinade, I "fry" it in brown sugar. This step makes the fat render, browns the meat and gives the sauce a caramel taste. A final sprinkle of toasted garlic gives the dish another nuance of its flavour.

Adobo is a dish that is so good with rice. Fish sauce is always offered even if the dish is seasoned enough. I like eating mine with tomatoes and boiled or fried eggs. 

A true blue Filipino's mouth would have watered on reading the previous paragraph. 


1 kg. of skinless pork belly ribs, trim off fat and cut into 2"x2" cubes
3 clove of garlic, crushed
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. light soy sauce
2-3 tbsps. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. water
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and fried until golden


This recipe can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven.

Put all the ingredients, except for the water, sugar and fried garlic in a bowl or dish. Mix well and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes. 

If cooking on the stovetop, transfer the meat and marinade to a pan. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil and simmer on low heat for an hour or until the meat is fork tender. 

If cooking in the oven, omit the water. Put the marinated pork, including the marinade, in an oven proof dish.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350° F/175° C for 1-2 hours until fork tender.

Take the meat out of the sauce.

In a dry, clean pan, caramelize the brown sugar. Add the meat and stir until the meat is browned and glazed with the sugar. 

Add the sauce and simmer on medium heat until the sauce is reduced. To get a rich deep taste, the sauce has to be reduced until syrupy then add a bit of water to make a sauce.

Sprinkle with the fried garlic before serving.

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