Philippine adobo (from Spanish adobar: "marinade," "sauce" or "seasoning") is a popular Filipino dish and cooking process in Philippine cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. It has occasionally been considered the unofficial national dish in the Philippines.
The cooking method for the Philippine adobo is indigenous to the Philippines. Pre-colonial Filipinos often cooked or prepared their food with vinegar and salt to keep them fresh longer in the tropical climate of the Philippines. Vinegar, in particular, is one of the most important ingredients in Filipino cuisine, with four main traditional types: coconut vinegar, cane vinegar, nipa palm vinegar, and kaong palm vinegar, all of which are linked to traditional alcohol fermentation.
There are four main traditional cooking methods using vinegar that are still widely prevalent in the Philippines today: kinilaw (raw seafood in vinegar and spices), paksiw (a broth of meat with vinegar and spices), sangkutsa (pre-cooking meat by braising them in vinegar and spices), and finally adobo (a stew of vinegar, garlic, salt/soy sauce, and other spices). It is believed that paksiw, sangkutsa, and adobo were all derivations of kinilaw. They are also related to cooking techniques like sinigang and pinangat na isda that also have a sour broth, albeit using native fruits like calamansi, tamarind, unripe mangoes, bilimbi, santol, and star fruit instead of vinegar.
When the Spanish Empire colonized the Philippines in the late 16th century and early 17th century, they encountered the adobo cooking process. It was first recorded in the dictionary Vocabulario de la lengua tagala (1613) compiled by the Spanish Franciscan missionary Pedro de San Buenaventura. He referred to it as adobo de los naturales ("adobo of the native peoples").
The Spanish also applied the term adobo to any native dish that was marinated before consumption. In the 1794 edition of Vocabulario de la lengua tagala, it was applied to quilauìn (kinilaw) a related but different dish which also primarily uses vinegar. In Vocabulario de la lengua Bisaya (1711), the term guinamus (verb form: gamus) was used to refer to any kind of marinades (adobo), from fish to pork. Other terms for precolonial adobo-like dishes among the Visayan peoples are dayok and danglusi. In modern Visayan, guinamos refers to an entirely different dish, bagoong. Dishes prepared with vinegar, garlic, salt (later soy sauce), and other spices eventually came to be known solely as adobo, with the original term for the dish now lost to history.
While the adobo dish and cooking process in Filipino cuisine and the general description of adobo in Spanish cuisine share similar characteristics, they refer to different things with different cultural roots. Unlike the Spanish and Latin American adobo, the main ingredients of Philippine adobo are ingredients native to Southeast Asia, namely cane vinegar, soy sauce (originally salt), black peppercorns, and bay leaves (traditionally Cinnamomum tamala and related species; but in modern times, usually Laurus nobilis). It does not traditionally use chilis, paprika, oregano, or tomatoes. Its only similarity to Spanish and Latin American adobo is the primary use of vinegar and garlic. Philippine adobo has a characteristically salty and sour, and often sweet, taste, in contrast to Spanish and Mexican adobos which are spicier or infused with oregano.
While the Philippine adobo can be considered adobo in the Spanish sense—a marinated dish—the Philippine usage is much more specific to a cooking process (rather than a specific recipe) and is not restricted to meat. Typically, pork or chicken, or a combination of both, is slowly cooked in vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and soy sauce. It is served with white rice. It was traditionally cooked in small clay pots (palayok or kulon); but in modern times, metal pots or woks (kawali) are used instead.
There are numerous variants of the adobo recipe in the Philippines. The most basic ingredient of adobo is vinegar, which is usually coconut vinegar, rice vinegar, or cane vinegar (although sometimes white wine or cider vinegar can also be used). Almost every ingredient can be changed according to personal preference. Even people in the same household can cook adobo in significantly different ways.
A rarer version without soy sauce is known as adobong puti ("white adobo"), which uses salt instead, to contrast it with adobong itim ("black adobo"), the more prevalent versions with soy sauce. Adobong puti is often regarded as the closest to the original version of the Pre-Hispanic adobo. It is similar to another dish known as pinatisan, where patis (fish sauce) is used instead of vinegar.
The proportion (or even the presence) of ingredients like soy sauce, bay leaves, garlic, or black pepper can vary. The amount and thickness of the sauce also varies as some like their adobo dry while some like it saucy. Other ingredients can sometimes be used; like siling labuyo, bird's eye chili, jalapeño pepper, red bell pepper, olive oil, onions, brown sugar, potatoes, or pineapple. It may also be further browned in the oven, pan-fried, deep-fried, or even grilled to get crisped edges.
Adobo has been called the quintessential Philippine stew, served with rice both at daily meals and at feasts. It is commonly packed for Filipino mountaineers and travelers because it keeps well without refrigeration. Its relatively long shelf-life is due to one of its primary ingredients, vinegar, which inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Based on the main ingredients, the most common adobo dishes are adobong manok, in which chicken is used, and adobong baboy, in which pork is used. Adobong baka (beef), along with adobong manok (chicken), is more popular among Muslim Filipinos. Other meat sources may also be used, such as adobong pugò (quail), adobong itik (duck), adobong kambing (goat). There are also seafood variants which can include fish (adobong isda), catfish (adobong hito), shrimp (adobong hipon), and squid or cuttlefish (adobong pusit). It can even be used to cook vegetables and fruits, like water spinach (adobong kangkong), bamboo shoots (adobong labong), eggplant (adobong talong), banana flowers (adobong pusô ng saging), and okra (adobong okra).
Even more exotic versions include adobong sawâ (snake), adobong palakâ (frogs), Kapampangan adobung kamaru (mole crickets), and the adobong atay at balunbalunan (chicken liver and gizzard).
There are also regional variations. In southern Luzon (Bicol region), and Muslim Zamboanga, for example, it is common to see adobo cooked with coconut milk (known as adobo sa gatâ). In Cavite, mashed pork liver is added. In Laguna, turmeric was added, giving the dish a distinct yellowish color (known as adobong dilaw, "yellow adobo"). In the northern province of Batanes, they prepare a kind of adobo called luñiz, which takes pork and preserves it in jars with salt. In Batangas, adobo is cooked with achuete seeds, giving it a reddish color.
Adobo has also become a favorite of Filipino-based fusion cuisine, with avant-garde cooks coming up with variants such as "Japanese-style" pork adobo.
Adobo sa gata coconut milk
Pork adobo with pineapple
Adobong isaw ng manok (chicken intestines)
Outside of the dish itself, the flavor of adobo has been developed commercially and adapted to other foods. A number of local Philippine snack products such as cornicks, nuts, chips, noodle soups, and corn crackers, market their items as "adobo flavored".
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