After settling down 95% in my now-permanent university residence (for 10 months), I’ve finally picked up the guts to conquer the communal kitchen and come up with an emergency adobo dish (I’m fed up with subsisting on ALMA meals and broodjes or sandwiches) which I think will last me for two nights:
Materials (metric measurements approximate):
– 250 g. pork (I prefer to use pigue, because it has less adipose tissue)
– 1:1 soy sauce:distilled white wine vinegar (the total volume I think I got was 50 mL, guesstimating with my eyes and my all-purpose bowl)
– 25 mL water
– 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
– ground pepper (I only have white pepper), to taste
– dried minced garlic (I forgot to buy fresh garlic and onions at the greengrocer), to taste
– cooking oil (corn or any vegetable oil…coconut preferred)
– Cube pork into eatable pieces. Not smaller than 1 inch in all dimensions, since meat shrinks while cooking. Place in frying pan.
– Add the 1:1 soy sauce:vinegar solution. Sprinkle sugar, ground pepper and garlic. Add water.
– Place frying pan on stove set at high. Once the mixture simmers, switch to medium to low and let the meat cook for at least 30 minutes, adding a bit of water to keep the sauce from drying out.
– Smell the vapor after 30 minutes. If it smells meaty with a bit of sweet-saltiness instead of acid, turn the meat to coat with the sauce. If too dry, deglaze with a bit of water and stir the meat. Then simmer off the sauce to desired consistency.
– Add a teaspoonful or so of cooking oil. Stir once.
– Serve on newly-steamed rice (or fried rice) on a plate. Or store in a Tupperware box until the next meal.
Results and Discussion
The soy sauce/vinegar proportion. I like it even, the soy sauce and the vinegar. By keeping the 1:1 proportion, I get the saltiness balanced out with the acidity of the vinegar. Though the version I like at home doesn’t use vinegar, but pure calamansi (Philippine lemon) juice. The next version of adobo, I’ll try using lemon juice.
Sugar in my adobo? This imparts a hint of sweetness to the salty-tangy dish, mellowing out the residual acidity. Plus it helps out in caramelizing the sauce, making it sticky and savory.
No bay leaf, oh no! Notice that there is no bay leaf specified in my version. I simply don’t like the taste of bay leaf in more mainstream versions of adobo. I’ve spent many a hapless moment back in Manila biting though a missed-out piece and ruined my appetite.
Dried minced garlic = laziness? Maybe. Remember that I haven’t completely (read: 100%) settled down in my residence and I simply grabbed the opportunity to complete my basic cooking stock in my side of the communal kitchen larder. Instead of buying fresh garlic heads from the local greengrocer, I just got myself a bottle of dried minced garlic. It’s quite useful in making some quick marinades or meat seasonings (more on that in the next cooking post) and indispensible for making quick fried rice.
Adding water/deglazing with water. This helps in softening the meat. I usually simmer cubed pork in adobo for at least 30 minutes for the meat to soften properly. More so if other ingredients like potatoes are added—extra moisture is necessary.
Cooking oil. Instead of relying on rendered pork fat, I prefer to add a bit of oil to my adobo at the end. Why? My style is to simmer the sauce to near-dryness (when the sauce seriously caramelizes), then lightly fry the meat with oil. The oil seals in the moisture and the flavor absorbed from the sauce, not to mention that at least the consumption of animal fat is reduced. Only do this when less-fatty pork parts are used.
Compared to the previous adobo recipes, this one has the barest ingredients (pork, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper and garlic), since items like chicken and bay leaf are omitted. I’ve used distilled white vinegar because it’s the closest in smell to Pinoy brands like Datu Puti and Silver Swan; distillation purifies the wine vinegar to its most basic aspect: acetic acid. But, due to its simplicity, anything and everything can be tweaked or added here—like replacing vinegar with lemon juice, adding pinapple chunks and syrup to deglaze the sauce near the end, adding potatoes and onions while cooking (my favorite), or wilting a leafy veggie like bok choy, spinach or broccoli leaves over the dish before serving.
And one good thing about making adobo—it keeps too well in the ref. As the dish ages in there, the flavor becomes more concentrated. As long as there’s hot, fluffy rice available for eating, leftover adobo will always be a welcome dinner from a day in the lab.