My first experience of food in the Philippines was standing on a stage looking at plates of intestines, pigs bladders and what looked like a large boiled egg.
This ‘Fear Factor Challenge’ was part of the welcoming party for the exchange visit that I was on. The journey to the Philippines had been long; delayed due to fog and diverted to Singapore, what I really wanted to do was sleep not eat weird food (I was a super fussy eater as a child). Even the boiled egg turned out to be not as expected. Instead of a nice yellow yolk, it contained a developing embryo. Known as ‘balut’, I still haven’t summoned up enough courage to try this infamous Filipino delicacy. Needless to say, though I attempted to nibble a couple of the items, I failed the challenge.
Fortunately, my food experiences in the Philippines improved and had a lasting influence. There are things that I wish I could buy in the UK, like pili nuts; things that I can buy but that are now disappointing in their flavours, like mangoes and pineapples; and ways of cooking that I use, like adobo.
What is adobo? Wikipedia says: “Philippine Adobo (from Spanish adobar: “marinade,” “sauce” or “seasoning”) is a popular dish and cooking process in Philippine cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. It has sometimes been considered as the unofficial national dish in the Philippines. Although it has a name taken from Spanish, the cooking method is indigenous to the Philippines. Early Filipinos cooked their food normally by roasting, steaming or boiling methods. To keep it fresh longer, food was often cooked by immersion in vinegar and salt. Chinese traders introduced soy sauce which has replaced salt in the dish.”
It’s also super tasty. This is how I cook chicken adobo.
- Chicken thighs
- Soy sauce
- Rice wine vinegar (half the amount of soy sauce)
- Garlic – crushed
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- Chilli (not essential but I like spicy food)
Combine the ingredients to make a marinade for the chicken. I usually marinade it for 24 hours; make the marinade one evening, then the next evening it’s all ready to cook when I get in from work.
To cook, put it all in a big, heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. It’s so easy! When the chicken is cooked, I take it out and reduce the sauce to make it thick and luscious. Serve with steaming hot rice and coconutty spinach.
I cook a bit extra so I can have some for lunch the next day. It’s delicious on a soft tortilla wrap with spinach leaves and avocado.