Lasang Pinoy 1 – Blonde and Brunette Adobo a la Marketman

This post is part of the “Lasang Pinoy” Filipino Food Bloggers Event that aims to bring global attention to Philippine Food. Dozens of Food Bloggers around the world are participating. For a roundup or summary of all the entries, please visit Pilgrims Pots and Pans on 21 August 2005 on the 22nd anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. Please also visit other Filipino food bloggers’ sites for a “taste” of home…

The year was 1983. I was just about to start my sophomore year and of all aado1places to be on the entire planet, I lived just a stone’s throw away from the Aquino residence in the suburbs of Boston. If Cory or Ninoy were cooking up a pot of adobo I could probably smell it downwind from their kitchen. I didn’t know the Aquino family but in the previous year I saw Ninoy speak twice in the Boston area. I think Ninoy was a visiting lecturer at Harvard and/or MIT and he spoke at Boston College just a few months before he returned to Manila, that fateful August, only to be met by an assassin’s bullet. I was an undergraduate at Boston College and our campus on Chestnut Hill was directly across the street from the Aquino home while they were in exile. News of Ninoy’s murder reached the U.S. on the early morning of Sunday, August 21, 1983, a day after my 19th birthday…

Not too politically astute at the time, I nevertheless realized this was a major event in Philippine history and watched the news with awe and horror despite the distance. As the weeks and months unfolded, I eagerly awaited news from home. Network and Cable TV carried hardly any coverage of the Philippines. Letters from home were rare, as my parents were not the writing type and occasional phone calls brief to save on cost. Calls were stilted even as fear of wire tapping of certain individuals was widely believed. Faxes were a novelty. Personal computers were just being introduced (I was part of a trial group using new fangled things called “Apples”), cell phones and texts a thing of sci-fi movies, and email unheard of. The peso collapsed by at least 50% shortly after the Aquino murder, and by 1984 stood at close to PHP20 from PHP 8 less than 18 months before. My tuition had nearly trebled in peso terms and it was not clear that I could finish my studies because of a lack of funds. I borrowed heavily from my two sisters who lived in the U.S. and for the first time in my life, I went to work part-time manning the deep fryer and grill at a campus fast food restaurant. I earned about USD3 per hour and could eat as many French fries as I wanted. With the USD50 I netted (after tax et al) each week I bought all of my food and personal care items (soap, deodorant, Qtips and toilet paper). I learned how to eat decently on a limited budget out of necessity.

There was a small group of Filipino students in the Boston area and we soon addo2got to know more and more of each other. Several nieces and nephews of Cory were students in the Boston area, as were the kids of prominent families both for and against the Marcos administration. In the next 3 years until Marcos left the country in 1986, young Filipinos like me became far more politically aware, increasingly nationalistic and I guess the key word was idealistic. I suppose you could say I was clearly in the opposition camp – anti-Marcos, that is – and despite his murder, not necessarily an Aquino fan. Over the years I hosted dinners/get-togethers in our modest college apartment as a good way to keep in touch with Boston area based Filipinos and to get news from home. Food was a necessity at these gatherings…ever see more than one Filipino congregate without serious calories in sight?

So it was during these years that I started learn how to really cook – out of necessity aado3and out of increasing interest. Before college I had baked brownies, cookies, pies and some bread. Prior to Boston, I had never cooked rice in my life. Neither had I cooked a single Filipino dish such as adobo, beefsteak tagalog or tinolang manok. I had no Filipino recipe books, and the available ingredients in Boston for Asian, let alone Filipino cooking were rather scarce. Chinatown and a few Japanese and Korean shops had a few items but forget anything “exotic” like bagoong. So as much as I wracked my brains over the past few weeks for a recipe that would be worthy of the first “Lasang Pinoy” Blogging Event, I decided to be true to the times… 1983, in an upper-class suburb on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts with a very limited range of ingredients. Here is my recipe for chicken and pork adobo. This is what I actually cooked and ate fairly frequently during those years.

I thought to do some lengthy treatise on the history of adobo but decided against it. addo4Just the abbreviated version – while many believe this dish is influenced by the Spanish adobo which uses a pickling sauce of olive oil, vinegar and spices, or the Mexican spice mix with spices and vinegar that is used to make adobado – I choose to believe that the Spaniards arrived and noted that we had a dish similar to their adobos and thus called it just that. This theory is not mine, it was articulated by Raymond Sokolov in 1991 where he asserts that “Filipino adobo stands by itself, fully formed and always distinct from the adobo dishes of Mexico and Spain.” As for the base ingredients of vinegar, spices and salt – we probably had all of these in the 1500’s. Pepper we may have had from trading with Malayan neighbors. Bay leaves could have been of the cassia tree rather than the laurel tree. Soy sauce and garlic almost certainly came later, so the earliest versions probably didn’t use much soy sauce. This type of cooking could be applied to any number of ingredients but seemed to make the most sense for preserving meats and prevent them from spoiling for several days.

My adobo is really simple and any one of the 10-14 million ethnically Filipino aado5or half or quarter Filipinos out there can do this in most locales around the globe ( I generalize of course as a million or two of you can’t do the pork version in the Middle East…). To me, adobo represents the quintessential taste of home. Here is the recipe I used when I lived in Boston and it uses the ingredients that I could find there at the time.

“Blonde” Chicken Adobo a la Marketman

Cut a whole chicken into serving sized pieces, say 8-10 large pieces. In college, I sometimes used only chicken wings because they were the cheapest cut, yet they were the most flavorful. Place in a pot and add ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, a little water, whole peppercorns, several cloves of slightly mashed garlic, 2-3 bay leaves and some salt. Simmer until tender. Add some Kikkoman soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes to blend the flavors. Make sure the liquid boils down a bit so that the sauce is slightly thickened. Apologize to irate neighbors if you live in an apartment as the smell is something else to the uninitiated nose. Serve this with rice if you are in a hurry. This is the “blond” version as this is rather pale (no marca pina soy sauce that is black as sin in Boston) and relatively less tasty than some of the dark stewed versions of the dish you may find in the Philippines.

“Brunette” Chicken Adobo a la Marketman

If you have time and can stand the mess, take the blonde version one step further. Heat up a frying pan and pour some of the fat from the sauce into it and add a bit more vegetable oil or lard if you have it. Take the chicken pieces and fry them briefly (just a minute or two on each side to give it a nice caramelized brown crust). Put these on a serving platter. Boil down the sauce to further reduce and serve as a sort of gravy on the side. This version looks more appetizing and photographs better but it is still adobo.

Pork Adobo a la Marketman

I do not like to mix chicken and pork adobo because the meats take differing aado6amounts of time to cook. Unless you phase the cooking, the chicken is overcooked and the pork just cooked. So I like to cook the pork separately. Take fatty pork and cut into medium sized cubes. Put in a pot with lots of apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves and some water. Boil or simmer until the pork is tender. Do not add soy sauce to this mixture. When the pork is cooked remove it from the sauce and pour Kikkoman soy sauce over the meat and let it marinate for about 10 minutes, making sure all the pieces get coated in soy sauce. Then fry the pieces in a frying pan until just caramelized. Boil down the remaining sauce together with the remaining soy sauce from the marinade and serve this on the side.

As a closing note, let me be less the idealistic college sophomore and more the realistic middle aged Marketman. Since Ninoy was assassinated, our country has aado7had nearly 20 years of freedom and democracy, much more time than it took for Marcos to do his dastardly deeds. Instead of capitalizing on these two decades (half the time it took the nation of Singapore to get where it is today – yes, Singapore is only 40 years old), we have plunged further into the abyss, multiplied like rabbits, degraded our environment further, reduced per capita incomes, depreciated the peso, graduate more students who are less literate, and generally speaking have sunk deeper into a downward negative spiral. And with our new found “freedom,” millions of Filipinos have chosen or been forced to flee the country in search of a better life and larger incomes as politicians reach new records of shameful behavior and businesses are unable to employ enough of our burgeoning population. Many of our fellow countrymen now work in countries that were less free than we were prior to Ninoy’s assassination, or in positions that are far below their real capabilities in countries that have their proverbial acts together. I know, it isn’t nice to be negative, but unless someone points out that we are now scraping the bottom of the barrel and we collectively do something about it, then we have little hope as a nation of taking advantage of that hard won freedom. What good is freedom if over 50% of the population cannot even afford to put rice and a simple dish of chicken and pork adobo on their dinner table tonight?


27 Responses

  1. Wonderful Marketman! Another classic Lasang Pinoy entry. What a revelation! You saw history happen. The theme seems to be almost tailored for you.

    On the adobo: CeliaKusinera has a previous entry on this. Adobo without soy sauce is actually the old way of cooking it, as far as I can see. Many Kapampangans would call this arobu.

    Thanks for sharing your memories. Oh, by the way, you’re not as old as you want us to believe, hehehe!

  2. Marketman —

    Happy 22nd 19th birthday! ;)

    I use apple cider vinegar too for my adobo — Bragg to be exact and I swear it just tastes better!

    Thanks for the validation.

    P.S. — How does Epicure Marketman’s Birthday Feast look like? Would you be featuring a post on that? Hope so.

  3. Thanks for sharing Marketman! Agree with Karen, the theme suited you perfectly and your story suited the theme perfectly. Love the part about the dinners you hosted and using only chicken wings in your adobo there because it was more economical. Also, did you really eat all the french fries you could? Oh boy…

    Love all three of your adobo recipes…of course the pork being my favorite :-) I love it when you fry the meat (whether chicken or pork) after cooking/stewing. My uncle makes it that way…YUM!

    I also agree that some collective action must be taken…sigh. Seems like an insurmountable task but I have to believe we have it in us…*another sigh*…

    Hope you have a great birthday filled with fun and good eats!!!

  4. advanced happy bday marketman :-) sarap naman your adobo versions. will try them soon. i’m tapulan kasi and i just dump the soy sauce together with everything else while stewing. then i fry the chicken and pork pieces then put them back again in the sauce. we also put mashed chicken liver which was stewed with the adobo earlier. this is actually my mother-in-law’s recipe. growing up as you know, adobo in cebu is entirely different hehehe

  5. so sad, yet so true… meanwhile let’s enjoy life thru good food. happy birthday marketman, cheers to you!

  6. Adobo would be the quintessential Filipino dish wouldn’t it? And once again Mr Marketman, you have outdone yourself with your dee-licious looking versions of this fabulous be it ever so humble food. Although it is sad but true that most of our countrymen can’t even afford to eat their own national dish!

    I was 13 years old when “People Power” overthrew the Marcos regime. Even though my dad was in the navy and served the Marcos government, I felt the injustice when Aquino was murdered – and showed my support by wearing yellow ribbons and a pin that said “Hindi ka nag-iisa” everywhere I went (to the consternation of my father!) I was a pain in the backside even then!! :-)

    This is a good Food bloggers event, it’s always a nice thing when Filipinos around the world can do something to help us feel united in some way and remember a part of our history – even though our country may be going through such a very hard time right now.

    If I were game I would try my hand at making oxtail kare-kare. I don’t know MM, got any decent recipes for this dish?

    Best wishes for your birthday,

  7. My very best adobo for your birthday. Have a good one!

    I got this Adobo Book by Nancy Reyes-Lumen and another guy called Alejandro (forgot the first name)and was surprised to know that there are so many versions. Have yet to try one of those. Your pork adobo in the pix looks like the one I know back home and which is my absolute fave: no sauce but for some fat and with lots of pepper and garlic. Been using wine vinegar since moving here here so I’ll give apple cider vinegar a try. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Yikes!!! Everyone is reading the post too closely… My birthday isn’t until Saturday, the 20th, the day before Ninoy was assasinated… but THANKS for all the greetings! The liver in sauce trick is essentially a thickener that makes the sauce much more like a western gravy… I haven’t made an oxtail kare kare by myself yet… Gigi, I use Bragg’s here but in the states I used to look for any apple cider vinegar…

  9. not that i need to kiss a$$, but your site has in its own way created a sort of buz around the metro. thanks, marketman. happy birthday! keep up the good work, and i wish you (in the ‘onli in da pilipins’ way) “more power!” hope you can also do restaurant reviews.

  10. Advance Happy Birthday MarketMan! Now I know you’re in my generation. ;) Very good post on your memories and impressions of those times.

  11. CeliaK, omigosh, I just went to see your entry on Adobo… talk about thinking in the same path, BLONDE ADOBO… who would have thought to name it that and more than one person do the same?l The world is getting so small…so nice in a way that we can all do this from different parts of the globe! Love your molo recipe!

  12. Advanced happy birthday MM! Great to see some historical relevance tied into one of your food posts. Cheers!

  13. hi marketman, wow, didn’t think it was possible but you’ve definitely outdone yourself with this entry! tailor made nga for you. and you’re younger than you would have us believe — when you said you’re middle-aged i took that to mean 50’s LOL. advanced happy birthday!!! that last bit about our country says it all — so true. and sad:(

  14. advanced happy boitday Market Man…
    what interesting names to give the “tustado” adobo which was the only thing i had growing up, until i started cooking for myself in the college dorm kitchenette when “blonde” had to do!
    thank you for sharing your stories…

  15. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MM! yES, I was under the impression that you were much older! Congratulations, this is truly a magnificent entry, one of your best, i must say. And reading about your adobo simply made me salivate…
    Speaking of which, if you find yourself in greenbelt 3, a MUST is the fantastic adobong kambing in Larry Cruz’ cafe Havana. Orgasmic!!! It’s truly a DON’T MISS experience. I always order it with garlic fried rice. I don’t really care much for game but this one is truly a champion! No gamey, unpleasant taste or odor, just delicious!!!
    Yes, what’s in store for the MM’s birthday feast? Looking forward to that entry.
    Happy 41st tomorrow!

  16. I like the brunette adobo. :) Definitely more “sinful” but heck one a month of all that cholesterol can’t kill. I hope.

  17. In just a few hours, it will be your birthday … so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    I do hope you will feature what your birthday feast will be because that would certainly be interesting.
    And the adobo pictures here make me drool.

  18. What an informative post, market man! I just love reading about your experiences. I’m from the school of lazy adobo, putting it all in one pot and let it simmer. I’ll have to try your version of cooking it separately and pan frying it.

    Happy Birthday! :-)

  19. Great post MM. We pan fry our adobo too … good idea on separating the chicken from pork. I might just do that next time.

    My mom-in-law cooks this wicked calamari adobo every now and then and, man, it has got to be one of the best adobo there is. The ink in the sauce really enhances the flavor … ‘tastes really good in a plateful of hot steamy rice.

    ‘Ya know … food really played an integral role during those anti-Marcos rallies :) … I remember sitting amongst the students at Mendiola during those days. The sight of foodstuffs, bags of “pan de sal”, etc. being passed around to everyone who were bent on staging a vigil in front of those tanks and concertina barbed wires made an impression on me. The foodstuffs were donated mostly by the public and total strangers, if I remember it correctly. I did not get to partake in any of them though as I was a just there as a mere observer; noone else knew me. I was just someone who was trying to capture the goings on in my camera. But yeah, it was, indeed, a sight to see in that dimly lit street that one night.

    I think I was in my senior year in college when Aquino was assasinated. I recall not being able to concentrate in my studies for the finals … ‘just couldn’t get away from the TV news hungering for any new developments from back home. And so I flew back home instead. The urge to be in the midst of it was just too much.

    Anyway, enuf blabberin’ here … Happy B’day MM!

  20. Mr. Marketman, I hope on your next issue you already have your Bistek Tagalog ala Marketman. Looking forward to read it soon. I was able to print a copy of your Santol juice and Adobo ala Marketman. Me and Edrid will try your adobo for our supper.

  21. have a great birthday MM!

    my Mama taught me the same with your “brunette adobo” but added ‘atsuwete’ for color…i was actually wondering why some adobo doesn’t use soy sauce, well, now i know why…a very informative post!

  22. happy birthday to you, although very late, my mom always make the brunette version every sunday (the only time meat is served when we were growing up)she did not pan fried the pork pero yung sauce pina-iga sa pork hanggang lumabas yung pork fat so what we do pag inalis na yung adobo sa kawali lalagyan ng mainit na kanin para makuha nung kanin yung sauce na kumapit sa kawali . sarap tapos the ever-present bagoong balayan and sibuyas tagalog.



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