If there is a dish that defines what Filipino cuisine is all about - it's adobo, the unofficial, national dish of the Philippine islands. There are as many versions of adobo as there are many islands in the Philippines. Perhaps not as many as 7,107 islands (the whole Philippine archipelago) but ask each Filipino family and each will tell you their own adobo recipe handed down from one generation to another differentiated not so much by the kind of ingredients they use but more on the style or technique in cooking the dish.
Adobo always has meat - that's the star of the dish. It can either be chicken or pork or a combination of both. While the name is of Spanish origin and is similar in some ways to the Latin/Hispanic "adobo" in the sense that meat is steeped in or immersed in a sauce and cooked in it, adobo in the Philippines refers mainly to the dish (as in Pork adobo) rather than a cooking technique. Typically, adobo is cooked in a soy and vinegar sauce with bay leaves, lots of garlic, black peppercorns (whole or crushed), and may be sweetened with a little sugar or even pineapple juice or syrup. Because of the long and slow cooking, the meat absorbs the delicious flavor of the sauce and is so good paired with rice. Normally, we cook a lot of adobo so we have left-overs which can be re-heated day after day. The longer the adobo stands (in the fridge of course, though in the olden times it's the vinegar that served as its preservative) the better the taste. When you have some left-overs (if you ever have some 'cause you may want to eat it all in one sitting - so more-ish!) serve it with fried rice and some fried eggs and you have a classic Pinoy breakfast - AD-SI-LOG - short name for Adobo (this dish) - Sinangag (Fried Rice) - and Itlog (Fried Eggs). Yummm!
For this particular version, I depart from the usual adobo (though I will be posting a recipe for the classic adobo in a future post). Here I am making an adobo without using vinegar - Chinese style. For this I am deeply indebted to my friend Rebecca who graciously shared with me the ingredients she used and the way to make it. After I tasted the adobo she brought in one of our Filipino parties, I just had to get her recipe. It's so good you won't even miss the vinegar! I have never made pork adobo any other way! For me this is the ultimate pork adobo. Even my husband (not really a big pork fan) loves this and never says no when this is on the table.
What I particularly love about this adobo is the addition of mushrooms. I have seen adobo with pineapple rings but never one with mushrooms and this gives the adobo even more depth in flavor and adds a lot in texture. I have tried many kinds of mushrooms -both dried and fresh shiitake, enoki, mini-portobellos and the common white button mushrooms. Any of them are great for this dish but the best for me are the fresh shiitake 'cause they are so meaty and fully absorb the flavor. If using dried shitake, don't forget to rehydrate them first before using and keep the liquid used in rehydrating them 'cause you can add that into the sauce for an even better flavor (if that is even possible with this already yummy sauce!).
So here goes the yummiest and easiest Adobo ever!
1 kilo / 2.2 lbs pork (get the part with some fat on it like pork shoulder, boneless country style ribs or pork belly)
Oyster sauce – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Brown sugar – 2 Tbsp (adjust to taste)
Soy sauce – 1/4 cup (I use Kikkoman)
Garlic – 6-8 cloves, minced or crushed or chopped (a small head of garlic may be used)
2 Bay leaves
Freshly ground pepper (or whole black peppercorns), to taste
8 oz fresh mini-bella/portobello mushrooms, or 2 - 4 oz shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dry)
A few drops of sesame oil (Very essential!)
Clean the pork. Cut up the pork adobo style - about 1 1/2 - 2 inch cubes or chunks. They will shrink as they cook so I make it a little bigger.
In a deep pan or a Dutch oven, mix the soy and oyster sauces, sugar, garlic and ground or whole peppercorns. Coat the pork with the sauce. Insert the bay leaves.
Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low until pork is tender between 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
When the pork is already tender, add in the mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the mushrooms are cooked and tender about 5-10 minutes.
Add a few drops of sesame oil. Serve hot with rice.
If using fresh Shiitake (4oz) - clean them quickly under running water or wipe the tops clean. Cut of the stem (can't eat them too chewy!) and then chop.
If using dry Shiitake (2 oz) - reconstitute/rehydrate the mushrooms in warm water for about 20 mins or until tender. Reserve the water. You may need to strain it first to remove any impurities and add it as needed if the adobo sauce dries up. This liquid is so full of flavor so don't throw it away especially if you like a more liquidy adobo.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)