Adobo is a stew of meat, usually pork, chicken or a combination of both. Vegetables or seafood may also be used. The meat is browned in oil and simmered until tender in a mixture of garlic, bayleaf, black peppercorns, vinegar, and soy sauce. Some variations of the recipe use gata (coconut milk) instead of soy sauce, and are therefore called adobo sa gata (adobo in coconut milk).
The use of coconut milk suggests that adobo may have had its beginnings in a Malaysian dish of chicken and pork stewed in coconut milk and served with vinegar and garlic, known as ginataan.
However, adobo's main influence is clearly Spanish. The name adobo comes from Spanish, proof of the dish's Spanish origin. The garlic, bayleaf, and vinegar are also used in the original Spanish adobo, which is really a pickling sauce that is further spiced with oregano, thyme, and paprika. The vinegar helps in preserving the meat, making adobo an ideal dish to make ahead and store for several days. This is especially beneficial given the warm climate in the Philippines, especially where cold storage is unavailable.
An oriental influence can also be traced, due to the use of soy sauce.
Pork and chicken are the meats most often used for adobo, although there is also beef adobo. Other poultry like quail and duck are also used. Adobo is usually served in the sauce used for cooking, with rice. But the meat may also be shredded and fried until crisp. The resulting dish is called adobo flakes. This makes an excellent meal, especially for breakfast, accompanied by a salad of tomatoes and onions, fried eggs, or atsara (shredded pickled papaya).
The meat may also be simmered until the sauce dries up, then cut up and used in a sandwich, preferably made with pan de sal.
The Chinese-Filipinos add star anise and rice wine to their adobo. In Batangas, beef adobo is made with achuete or annatto.
There are also versions sweetened with sugar, or sweet orange juice or pineapple juice. Still another version has hot chili peppers.
Vegetables made into adobo include okra, eggplant, sitaw (snake beans), and kangkong (water spinach).
Fish and seafood adobo are less common. Squid adobo (adobong pusit) is unique among all adobo varieties for having a black rather than a brown sauce, as it is cooked in its ink.
Adobo is popular among all Filipinos and found throughout the country with endless variations depending of the ingredients available in the region. Many thus consider it the national dish of the Philippines.
Here are six ways to use leftover adobo:
- Shred and fry with crushed garlic until crisp to make adobo flakes.
- Make into a pasta sauce. Stir fry a cup of flaked leftover adobo meat in oil from the adobo with 4 cloves of crushed garlic and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Sprinkle with freshly-ground pepper to taste. Stir two (250 ml) boxes of cream into the mixture. Pour onto cooked spaghetti or fettucine. Top with a mixture of chopped salted egg, mango, tomato, and spring onions.
- Flake meat and simmer in some of the sauce until the sauce evaporates. Use as a filling for pan de sal.
- Served chopped leftover adobo meat mu-shu style in a flour taco. Julienne a large carrot and blanch. Mix the meat with snipped wansuy, the blanched carrots, and julienned cucumber. Warm each side of a tortilla in a frying pan over a low fire (do not oil the pan). Spread one side of the warmed tortilla with hoisin sauce. Lay a leaf of leafy lettuce on it. Put one-fourth cup of the adobo mixture down the center. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil if desired. Fold over the sides and bottom to eat.
- Use shredded adobo to top ramen along with chopped spring onions and slices of hard-boiled egg.
- Flake adobo meat and mix with leafy salad greens, diced tomato, and cucumber and mango slices. Serve with Asian dressing.
- The Black Eyed Peas's apl.de.ap, a Filipino-American, mentions in a song called Bebot that he often eats Chicken Adobo back in the barrio.
- In 2001, Laurice Guillen directed a film entitled American Adobo, about a group of Philippine expatriates.
- Some Philippine snack foods like peanuts and chips are adobo-flavored.
- Some powdered mixes and bottled sauces are available to add ease to the preparation of adobo, although it is a simple enough dish to make from scratch.
- O'Boyle, Lily Gamboa. "Filipino Adobo." In Pacific Crossings. New York: Acacia Corporation, 1994. []
- Trucco, Terry. "Fare of the Country; Adobo: Spicy Stew of the Philippines."
New York Times, 17 October 2007.
- Kishenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. "Culture Ingested: On the Indigenization of Philippine Food (tribute to Doreen G./ Fernandez)."