|Garnished chicken-pork adobo|
Adobo, which is Spanish for marinade, sauce or seasoning, refers to a food cooking process that involves the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a sauce, of different components, including paprika (from red peppers), oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar, which are mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be served. The concoction is primarily used to preserve and enhance the flavor of food. The cooking technique is native to Spanish cuisine, which became widely used in Latin America, and was subsequently adopted in other countries, such as the United States. Adding tomato, corn, avocado, and potato in adobo is of Mexican influence. On the other hand, Venezuela has its own version of adobo, which refers to a concoction of salt with various spices, technically known as sal condimentada (seasoned salt).
When Spaniards ruled this country in 16th century, they encountered a local cooking procedure that involved stewing with vinegar and called it adobo. Since then, dishes cooked that way have been called adobo and the local term, if ever there was, was forever lost to history.
The Filipino adobo cuisine involves usually pork or chicken or a combination of both that are marinated and slowly simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, minced ginger and black pepper, taken out once the meat becomes tender and then fried in a pan to get the desired crisped edges and brown color. Afterwards, the sauce is poured back for gentle simmering a little while and then the dish is garnished. Being a Filipino dish, it is served as a viand paired with rice, the staple food in the Philippines. In visiting northern Luzon, particularly Nueva Vizcaya, I found out that adobo is not confined to either chicken or pork or a combination of both or seafoods, which are universally served and accepted in all parts of the country with an exception—Muslim communities consider pork adobo as unacceptable. In Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, there is a restaurant offering bizarre and creepy adobo dishes—of frogs and of bugs, which I relished along with other exotic dishes.
In the present-day style of cooking adobo, potato, beans or pineapple chunks are sometimes added for variation and flavor catering specially to the health-conscious. Creative chefs use deep-fried rice noodles, oregano leaves, and a long-variety of chili for garnishing.
This dish is commonly served in local restaurants for lunch and dinner. It is the favorite packed meal by Filipino mountaineers and travelers because of its relatively long shelf life without refrigeration, which is due to its vinegar ingredient inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
Whenever there is fiesta in any town or an engrande celebration of birthdays, weddings or anniversaries of wedding or even of death, adobo is always part of the menu composed of pansit and its variations—canton, bihon and sotanghon—and an array of pork-based cuisines ending in “do”—menudo, igado, estofado, embutido, mechado and hamonado—served for guests lined-up and in batches specially if you are in the Bicol region.
There was even a film bearing this name, American Adobo, featuring actress Cherry Pie Picache, the central character, the star cook whose signature dish is Filipino adobo—a metaphor of the complicated relationships between friends and family in a foreign setting.
Simply said, adobo, despite the origin of its name, is a Filipino icon, diversified and yet delightful.
When you decide to have fun in any of the 7,1o7 islands of the Pearl of the Orient, don't forget to have fun eating Filipino adobo--of chicken, of pork, of beef, of shrimps, or even of bugs and frogs.