Mein Adobo

Adobo close-up
If each town in Germany has its own specialty Bier or Wurst, in the Philippines, it’s the variety of adobo that makes it de facto national dish.  Following Kookie’s example, it is only proper to have adobo as one’s first post in this journal.

In Spanish, “adobo” means marinade.  Thus, the term “adobo” could be used for any pre-seasoned or cured food item.    In the Philippines, though, to cook something “adobo-style” usually means to cook it with vinegar, garlic, and other spices or sauces, often pepper and soy sauce.  Meat-adobos are the most popular, but vegetable and seafood adobos are also common eg. kangkong/water spinach adobo, squid adobo, and adobong bangus

Adobo is popular in the Philippines probably because the intense flavor lends itself well to the blank flavor of rice, the country’s staple food.  Furthermore it makes for a good packed lunch or an instant meal because of its long shelf-life.  The acid, the salt, the pepper, and the garlic simply provide an unsuitable medium for bacterial and fungal growth.

Each Filipino family has its own set of adobo recipes.  A good family friend, Tita Nancy Reyes-Lumen, even came up with an Adobo Book, featuring more than a hundred variations of the beloved dish.


The following recipe is not from my family; rather, it is my own version of adobo, using ingredients available in Germany.


•    250 g pork (cubed or Gulasch-cut)
•    400 g chicken (thighs and legs cut into smaller pieces for fast cooking)
•    90 mL vinegar (apple cider will do)
•    90 mL soy sauce (dark soy sauce, Not Kikoman)
•    80 mL water
•    4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    4 cloves of garlic (smashed, no skin)
•    2 bay leaves
•    ground black pepper
•    3-4 Tablespoons sugar
•    Cooking oil

1.    Make the vinegar-soy sauce-sugar-water mixture.
2.    Add the chopped garlic, 1 Tbsp pepper, and about 4-5 Tbsp. of the sauce mixture to the pork and chicken. Rub the sauce and spices into the meat

3.    Add about 1 tsp. of cooking oil in a non-stick pan
4.    On high heat, sear the chicken, followed by the pork.

sear 1sear 2
5.    Once the meat is well-seared, add in the rest of the sauce, bay leaves, and smashed garlic.

add sauce
6.    Lower the heat and simmer until the vinegar smell is not too strong. Do not stir.

7.    Increase the heat and let the sauce reduce to the desired thickness. Give the pot one stir to mix the meat with the thickened sauce.



Unlike Kookie’s adobo, I like using a 1:1 ratio for the vinegar and soy sauce.  I prefer the salty soy taste to the acidity of the vinegar.  To balance off the saltiness, though, I add sugar so my adobo is also on the sweet side.  The mixture can be adjusted to one’s taste so try to find your own golden ratio.

It is not advisable to use chicken breast since the long cooking process can lead to dry or tough pieces.   The higher fat content in brown meat is thus better.  Some versions of adobo do not call for the meat to be seared.  I find, though, that my adobo is more flavorful when seared and there is less of the “boiled meat” feel when you bite into it.

Care must be taken when reducing the sauce since the flavors will be more concentrated and the dish may turn out too salty or may lack liquid when stored and re-heated. Again, simply adjust the amount of sauce and its thickness to your satisfaction!



•    Serve the adobo over steaming rice

•    Serve it with a hard-boiled or poached egg

•    For the BBQ-loving Germans, an alternative is to grill adobo-marinated chicken. For this, water must not be added to the sauce mixture and all the garlic must be finely-chopped.  Marinade the meat for at least an hour in the ref. Grill all the meat. Cook the leftover marinade and adjust the flavors.  Reduce this sauce and drizzle over the chicken.  Serve the grilled meat with a side of sour cream.

•    Nix the water and just add coconut milk as a final step before simmering

•    Nix the water and use pineapple juice, or add pineapples and use the syrup in the can

•    Add some red chili for an adobo with a kick

•    Add marble potatoes or mushrooms

•    Deep-fry something in batter and use the adobo reduction as a drizzling sauce.

•    Take your old adobo, turn it into pulled pork or chicken (ie. himayin), add a small amount of freshly-prepared sauce and deep fry until crisp for “adobo flakes” (great rice and pasta topping) [possible future post]

•    Wear your adobo with pride:

adobo shirt


6 thoughts on “Mein Adobo

  1. Here I was just drooling over Kulinarya’s chapter on adobo, and David brings out a whole big book all about it (the Little Adobo Book is small…). Looks good. Pero oo nga, die, der, or das? 😉

  2. This is a big surprise for me. It has always been MAMA doing the native cooking for you. I never documented my recipe since i just adjust the taste. You have developed and came out with a good David version which I know will be used both by people who love to eat adobo and also those who will try it for the first time.

  3. Hi david,

    Why don’t you try adding powdered oregano and powdered tumeric (got mine from McCornick)so you’ll have a “twisted adobo”. FYI my father’s name is Eliseo Espejo Adobo, ha ha ha!


  4. Hi David!

    This looks really yummy!

    I’m compiling a list of all the different ways to cook adobo in a quest to find what a true filipino adobo is today, and I’m happy to include your adobo recipe in my article at I hope you don’t mind the link from my site to yours =)

    Keep in touch!

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