Thursday, October 13, 2016

Filipino chicken adobo

Preparation for a lesson on Filipino cuisine has brought back fond memories to my time in the Philippine Islands. Lord willing, I will give the presentation to the Christian Culinary Academe next spring in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The culinary students will be immersed in international cuisine at the time of my visit, which will coincide with the annual Christian Chefs International conference.

Sailing between the Philippines and Vietnam with the U.S. Navy in the 1970s was my introduction to the cuisine. Once I secured an assignment to the big air base at Cubi Point in 1975, I had plenty of time to explore the the food of Luzon, the northernmost of over 7,000 islands in the nation. Influenced by visitors from neighboring lands and from across the sea alike, Filipino cooks have adapted many unique favors and incorporated many exciting ingredients into their meals. It's a true melting pot.

I enjoyed foods like pancit (stir-fried Chinese-style noodles) by the plateful at the mom and pop cafe on Magsaysay Boulevard and Gordon Avenue in Olongapo. I lived on pancit because it was inexpensive, filling and delicious. Then there were the steamed buns served at the theater on Rizal Avenue and the zingy soup (a form a sinigang) made with local fish from the market and the essence of tamarind.

Chicken adobo was one of my favorite Filipino dishes. We prepared it in the galley on the U.S.S. Stein (DE-1065). And I enjoyed it in many restaurants between Olangapo and Manila. A bowl of steamed rice with a couple pieces of chicken or pork adobo was heavenly. Add my other favorites to the meal -- pancit guisado , lumpia and leche flan -- and you had the makings for a complete Filipino mea.


This dish has been called the Philippine national dish, with good reason. It brings out the best in Filipino cuisine. The unique sauce, made with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, covers the chicken in a tangy coating, with extra sauce to flavor steamed rice.

This dish is often prepared with large cubes of pork or a mix of pork and chicken. If desired, substitute a whole chicken chicken, cut into eight pieces, for the thighs. For a sweeter sauce, stir 1 teaspoon granulated sugar into the sauce just before serving. If too much sauce remains after the chicken is done, remove it to a waiting plate and reduce the sauce to the right consistency.

3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Adobo ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
8-10 chicken thighs, skin removed and fat trimmed

Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Place chicken in the bowl and turn pieces to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours or more, preferably overnight.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or wide-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until lightly caramelized, being careful not to burn. Place the chicken in the skillet or pan with the marinade in a single layer. Pour in just enough water to submerge the chicken by two-thirds. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a loose-fitting lid.

Cooking until the chicken is fork-tender. Do not let sauce completely dry up. Add additional water in small amounts (1 or 2 tablespoons at a time) if needed. You need a couple tablespoons sauce for each servings, in addition to the sauce that adheres to the chicken and onions. Strain sauce if desired.

To serve, portion steamed rice into individual bowls or plates with one or two pieces of chicken. Drizzle sauce over rice and chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley or minced green onions.