Located in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean is The Republic of the Philippines. This nation consisting over 7,000 islands is bordered in the north by Taiwan and China, in the West by Vietnam and in the South by Malaysia and Indonesia. The Philippines is today’s Earth Eats featured country. So with all of those islands and neighbours what is Filipino food really like?
The Philippines has a deep culture with a melange of culinary flavours influenced not only by the native people but also by it’s neighbours and (Spanish and American) colonial history. Filipino food is said to be a mix of and influence by Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, American and Malay cuisines. Filipino food is a tropical cuisine with plenty of seafood, chicken, pork, citrus fruits, garlic, onion, tomatoes, coconuts and fish sauce.* Rice is a very important staple food that Filipinos enjoy with nearly every meal. Flavours such as sweet, sour and salty are found in many of their dishes. The cuisine of the Philippines is truly unique and full of an interesting combination of flavours.
As a Mexican, I am intrigued by how the ingredients of my country have found their way and influenced the cuisine of the Philippines. In 1565, and during the Spanish colonial times of both Mexico and the Philippines, ships sailed back and forth between the ports of Acapulco and Manila; thus bringing in ingredients from Spain and New Spain (or modern day Mexico) into the Philippines and vice versa. From my research I can see that native Mexican ingredients like tomatoes, chile peppers, corn and chocolate were incorporated into Filipino cuisine. I also found out that the sailors on the ships were Mexican and so introduced both culture and recipes to the Filipinos. One such introduction was the pre-hispanic Mexican drink called champurrado. The sweet drink is made by mixing ground corn flour or masa with milk, spices, sweetener and chocolate. The Filipinos made it their own by swapping out the corn flour for sticky rice and began calling it chomporado.
When I set out to research Filipino cuisine I had no idea what the food would be like, and I certainly didn’t have a clue as to what dish I would cook for my Earth Eats series. Because many of the Filipino dishes have Spanish names they sounded familiar to me. Experts estimate that about 80% of Filipino dishes are derived from Spanish cooking. I finally settled on what seems to be the unofficial dish of the Philippines: Adobo. I’m sure many of you have heard the word, as it is used in Spanish speaking countries across Latin America and Spain. The word adobo describes the technique more than it does a specific dish. In Filipino cuisine adobo means marinading and stewing ingredients in vinegar, soy sauce and a few aromatic spices. Garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves are what gives the dish it’s characteristic taste. Any meat can be used for adobo, but perhaps the most common meats I came across were chicken and pork. I choose to go with the chicken.
This recipe was influenced by the many recipes that I read online. I came across several variations of Filipino adobo, it seems that every family has their own special recipe. Jen, of Tartine and Apron Strings, likes a ratio of 2:1 of soy sauce to vinegar, and says that she likes to add the vinegar at the end of the cooking time, or in last 10 minutes. Jacqui, of Happy Jack Eats, uses equal parts of water, vinegar and soy sauce and plenty of garlic too. Jacqui states that for 4 lbs of chicken she uses 1 cup of water, vinegar, and soy sauce each.
- 1 whole chicken (1.5 kg or 3.30 lb.), cut into 8-10 parts
- 7 tbsp soy sauce
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 dried bay leaves
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 cup water
- 5 tbsp rice vinegar, mixed with 1-2 tsp sugar
- steamed white rice
- Place chicken pieces in a large dish, using a sharp knife prick small holes around all pieces, set aside. In a bowl combine the soy sauce, 1 cup of water, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns; Then pour over chicken pieces, cover and leave in the refrigerator to marinade for 2 hours or overnight.
- Remove chicken from marinade but do not discard liquid -- set aside. Pat dry the chicken, set aside. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large pan, brown chicken. Once browned pour in marinade liquid, remaining 1 cup of water and simmer until it comes to a boil. Turn heat to low heat and continue simmering until chicken is cooked through. Allow liquid to halve. Once chicken is cooked through, add the vinegar-sugar mix and simmer for another 10 minutes.
I was worried that the adobo would be too salty or too sour from the vinegar, but it wasn’t. The taste was mild, with hints of soy sauce and touches of vinegar and bay leaves — no ingredient overpowered the other. It was definitely good and can see why such a simple, comforting dish of chicken and rice is a nation’s national dish. The fact that it’s a mild flavoured dish means it can satisfy many palates. I would definitely make it again and I think you should give it a try too. This dish is so simple that you can prepare it in your sleep!
Tell me have you ever eaten Filipino food? And what do you suggest I try next?
For more Filipino recipes stop by the following blogs and check out these cookbooks too.
Panlasang Pinoy has tons of great recipes
Try the Casava Cake by Tartine and Apron Strings
Jun-Blog: Stories from My Filipino Kitchen
How to Make Lumpia (Filipino Eggrolls) by Happy Jack Eats
Burnt Lumpia is a great blog and Marvin has a beautiful cookbook too.