Say Filipino food and the word adobo comes to mind. It is the most known Filipino dish and to some, the only one they know.
To a Filipino, cooking adobo is as basic as cooking rice. It is a recipe not originally made for its taste but also for food preservation. It is basically a pickle. The original dish is made only with vinegar, garlic and peppercorns. The latter two ingredients are there for flavouring. This method of cooking is actually used to preserve meat. Adobo does not spoil easily, even in the intense heat of the tropics, even without refrigeration. When a whole animal is slaughtered, chunks of meat are simmered in the adobo mixture just to prevent spoilage. The cooked meat can then be made into other dishes later on with the addition of other ingredients.
Adobo was originally made without soy sauce, called adobong puti (white adobo). When the Chinese came to the Philippines, they brought with them their ingredients, the most important of which is soy sauce. This was then added to the adobo which made it taste better. This was so loved by the folks so that this became the classic version of adobo.
Cooking adobo is personal. It is tailored to one's individual taste. There are only a few ingredients in this dish but the way it is cooked changes the way it tastes.
This is how I prefer my chicken adobo. While some would stop after simmering the meat in the pickling seasonings, I think frying is a vital step in making a good adobo. Frying gives it a deeper and richer flavour. My own twist is to add sugar to the meat after frying to make a caramel. The final simmering after frying brings the whole dish together and gives it the flavour that you'll crave for again and again. I liking simmering it until the sauce it nearly dry. At this point, the sauce turns into a syrup (I like my adobo sweet). The sugar turns to caramel and the vinegar loses its acidity. All that remains is a rich, thick, unctuous sauce that pools around the chicken. This sauce is what makes adobo crazy delicious. It is this sauce that makes it taste so good with rice.
Eating adobo is such a joyous experience for me and always bring a sense of patriotism. I love adobo and I love being Filipino.
Yield: 4-6 servings
1.5 kg. of chicken portions (I used thighs and drumsticks)
1/4 c. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 tbsps. of white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbsps. cooking oil
garlic slices (about 3 large cloves)
3 tbsps. light brown sugar
Put the chicken in a pan and season with the light and dark soy sauces, vinegar, garlic and black pepper.
Leave to marinade for at least half an hour.
Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. There will be enough liquid in the marinade and the chicken itself but if the mixture gets too dry, you can add a bit of water.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a rack to dry for about 10 minutes so that it doesn't spatter too much when fried. Reserve the sauce.
Heat up a frying pan. Add in the cooking oil. Fry the garlic slices until golden brown. Skim off and set aside.
Pan fry the chicken pieces in the same oil in two batches until browned and crusty. This will take about 3 minutes.
When all of the chicken pieces are fried, pour out the oil from the pan and put the chicken back in. Add in the sugar let it caramelise with the chicken while stirring occasionally to prevent the sugar from burning.
Add in the reserved sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let the sauce evaporate until syrupy and the acidity of the vinegar has disappeared. You can then dilute the sauce with water if you prefer it thinner. Pour water around the meat, not on it so that you do not wash off the glaze that's sticking to it. I did not have to add any salt at the end because I like eating my adobo with fish sauce on the side but you can adjust the seasonings to your taste.
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the fried garlic slices.
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