The first thought that comes to mind when I hear the word adobo is the delicious Mexican stew of meat cooked in wine. Adobo, however, is not specific to Mexico. Filipinos have a dish by the same name, although it is most often referred to by its (possibly adapted) name, adobong. While Filipino food has been largely influenced by Spanish, Spanish colonial, and, to a lesser extent, Chinese cooking cultures, Filipino cooks believe that adobong originated with them. Arguably the national dish of the Philippines, adobong also refers to the entire style of cooking in vinegar and is made with seafood and vegetables as well as meat. Regardless of the specific national origin of the technique, adobong cooking probably had its roots in necessity. Cooking in vinegar is a way of preserving food because it inhibits bacterial growth, allowing food to be stored at room temperature.
Peeling the garlic and ginger cloves is optional.
- Yields: 4 to 6 servings
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large head of garlic, cloves crushed
- 2 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 6 chicken legs (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), separated at the joint, thighs and drumsticks halved through the bone crosswise
- 1/2 cup coconut vinegar or Chinese white rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup Chinese light soy sauce
- 5 scallions, root and dark green ends trimmed, and 6-inch stalks cut into 1-inch-long pieces
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- Heat the oil in a large clay or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, scallions, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 1/4 cup water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is fork-tender and the juices have reduced by half, about an hour. You can serve the chicken over rice with a sautéed vegetable on the side now, or refrigerate it overnight.
- Take the adobong out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Place the pot, uncovered, over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, reheat the stew until a little more of the juices have evaporated. The more the juices evaporate, the more the fat surfaces and crisps the chicken pieces, making them very delicious.
Variation: You can make this with a whole 2 1/2 pound chicken. This is what I call “family style” adobong. Remove the legs from the chicken, and split them at the joint. Chop the drumsticks and thighs in half through the bone. (Use a cleaver to do this, but if you are uncomfortable using a cleaver for chopping, slice the pieces in half lengthwise so some of the halves retain the bone, while the others are bone-free.) Separate the back from the breast side of the chicken. Use kitchen shears or a cleaver. Quarter the backbone. Separate the wings from the breast at the joint, and discard the tips. Halve the breast through the bone, then quarter each half through the bone crosswise. Enjoy, but be very careful of the small bones.
Beverage pairing: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, USA. The fact that the chicken is cooked in vinegar makes the dish a challenge with wine, since acetic acid (vinegar) is something winemakers stringently avoid. The hint of acetic, however, tastes great with a spicy, bright, citric wheat beer such as this one from Wisconsin.