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Chicken Adobo

Filipino-Style Braised Chicken

By COSPublished 11 days ago 3 min read

In our household, the discovery of chicken adobo marked a pivotal culinary adventure. This quintessential Filipino dish, celebrated for its savory essence complemented by a vibrant acidity, quickly became a staple, perfectly paired with a generous serving of fragrant garlic fried rice.

There are two indisputable truths about chicken adobo: every Filipino family treasures their unique recipe, believing it to be the definitive version, and its flavors deepen and intensify when left to meld overnight.

Adding to the first truth, some non-Filipino families also boast their own interpretations, though these can sometimes pale in comparison to the authentic renditions.

Our family's adobo recipe, originating from our nanny Erlinda during our years in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, has remained largely unchanged over three decades. Its allure lies in its simplicity—a harmonious blend of soy sauce and vinegar, seasoned with ample garlic, whole black peppercorns, and fragrant bay leaves. This straightforward yet flavorful preparation has secured its place in our weekly meal rotation for as long as memory serves.

Adobo, while bearing a Spanish name, stands uniquely Filipino. As Raymond Sokolov observes in his book *Why We Eat What We Eat: How Columbus Changed the Way the World Eats*, Filipino adobo and other Spanish-influenced dishes like tamales and paella reflect an indigenous culinary tradition that predated Spanish colonization.

In our American-Japanese household, the regular inclusion of adobo in our meals resonated deeply with Filipino expatriates and locals alike. As chronicled by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan in *Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes From Far and Near*, dishes such as adobo, lumpia, and pancit serve as accessible gateways to Filipino cuisine for non-Filipino palates.

Nicole Ponseca, in *I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook*, describes adobo as irresistibly tangy, salty, and garlicky—a dish that effortlessly bridges cultural divides. For my American father and Japanese mother, residing in the Philippines during the 1980s, chicken adobo's appeal was universal. Its umami-rich flavors drew my father in, while the familiar presence of soy sauce appealed to my mother's culinary sensibilities.

The recipe passed down from my parents is refreshingly uncomplicated: soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves simmered with chicken pieces until tender. Its charm lies in its preparation—a ritualistic simmering that transforms simple ingredients into a deeply flavorful stew, enhanced further when left overnight to marry its complex flavors.

Since leaving my childhood home, I've made slight modifications to our family recipe, adjusting the ratio of soy sauce to vinegar to suit my family's palate. I've omitted brown sugar in favor of retaining adobo's assertive character, while increasing the quantity of peppercorns for added depth. Fresh bay leaves now replace the dried, and an overnight marinade in the fridge has become a non-negotiable step.

Having evolved over generations, this recipe embodies the spirit of authenticity, despite its non-Filipino origins. It represents a continuum of tradition, honoring Erlinda's original recipe while adapting to our evolving tastes.

Some days, when faced with surplus chicken pieces destined for adobo, I'd opt for a simple simmering approach, eschewing browning and opting for a straightforward infusion of flavors. Other times, I'd indulge in a more elaborate preparation—marinating the chicken beforehand, searing it to a golden brown, and deglazing the pan with the braising liquid to intensify its essence.

Occasionally, I'd even take the chicken a step further, briefly broiling it for a crisp exterior and succulent interior, serving it alongside garlic fried rice with a generous drizzle of adobo sauce.

Through countless experiments, I've learned that there's no single "right" way to prepare chicken adobo—each method offers its own merits, tailored to personal preference and time constraints alike.

In conclusion, whether through its rich history, diverse interpretations, or personal adaptations, chicken adobo remains a testament to the enduring appeal of Filipino cuisine. Its robust flavors and cultural significance continue to resonate, inviting all who taste it into a culinary journey steeped in tradition and flavor.

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COS

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Comments (1)

  • Sandeep Kumar 11 days ago

    Your story beautifully captures the essence of chicken adobo and its deep-rooted significance in your family's culinary journey. Well done!

COSWritten by COS

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