Growing up on Naval Bases around the world I came into close contact with Philippine culture at an early age. Filipino men would earn their US citizenship by working for the US Navy and a familiar smell to “Navy Brats” of my generation was Adobo.
Adobo is Spanish for seasoning or marinade and meat which has been marinated this way is said to have been adobada. Throughout the Spanish speaking world there are variations on adobo but the ones coming from the Philippines, which are usually made with pork or chicken, are notable for being slow cooked in a strong soy sauce and vinegar marinade seasoned with lots of garlic and pepper.
This is one of the first dishes a young Filipina learns to cook at her mother’s side and no self respecting mother would allow her boys to leave home without knowing how to make this national dish. Anywhere Filipino bachelors live will be filled with the fragrance of cooking adobo. It is a dish of love and mothers with sick children will usually make it since the strong tastes can be appreciated even with a stuffy nose. It is the ultimate Filipino comfort food.
Like all Pacific Islanders the Filipinos almost worship the pig and the preferred form of adobo is pork, but it can be made with chicken, squid, beef, lamb, game, fowl, like quail and snipe, catfish, okra, eggplant, string beans, and water spinach (kangkong). Of these the squid version is notable for its deep, purplish-black sauce which is made by adding the creature’s ink.
This is the quick and easy recipe that most mommas teach their boys. Country style ribs are cheap and very fatty—man food!
3 lbs country style pork ribs
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
6-8 cloves garlic
lots of pepper
Cut the ribs into 2 inch cubes. Health conscious Americans may want to discard most of the extra fat.
Add all the ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil for a few minutes.
Be sure you have enough pepper -- this dish should actually be somewhat spicy.
Reduce the heat and simmer umtilm the pork is cooked through.Remove the pork to a broiler pan and arrange in a single layer. Broil the meat until it is browned on the side facing up (about 4 minutes).
Remove and turn the individual pieces of pork so that the browned sides are down, and broil the meat again, this time for a slightly shorter amount of time. When both sides are adequately browned, return the pork to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes, and serve. Filipinos love this dish with mung bean stew (monggo guisado) and lots of white rice. The sauce should be spooned over the rice rather than the meat.
Adobo is a very adaptable dish with a long “shelf life” since the flavor improves in the days after it is first cooked, an important consideration for hard working men with little time and big appetites. Not only is adobo eaten for dinner with fried or scrambled eggs, garlic-fried rice, chopped tomato & onion salad, and atchara (green papaya pickle), it is a traditional breakfast. It also makes great sandwiches if you are on the go.
Well you knew you weren’t going to get out of here without a squid recipe so here goes. When I was living poor in San Francisco I ate a lot of squid (three pounds for a dollar!) We would buy them fresh off the boat and while my wife was a wonderful cook this is one of the recipes I contributed to our cuisine.
Adobong posit (squid in ink)
1 medium fresh squid
vegetable oil for cooking
Pitis (fish sauce)
One medium onion.
Garlic (the amount is up to you. I like enough to stun a vampire at ten paces).
salt and pepper to taste
chili peppers (optional)
Clean the squid removing its entrails and the “sword” (dried these are called “cuttlebones” and are great if you have parakeets). Be careful to keep the ink sacs intact (they stay inside the squid).
Dice and sauté one onion and garlic to taste in vegetable oil.
Add the squid, a dash of pitis, salt, pepper and green onions.
Add chili peppers if you like a dish that bites back.
Simmer until the squid is tender and the sauce is nearly jet black or deep purple.
Serve with lots of steamed rice.
Some people find this dish a bit tangy for their tastes. If so add a small dash of lemon lime soda (Sprite or 7 up).