As we were hunched over the stove, embroiled in some recent kitchen experiment, my Singapore family’s maid Erlinda noted in passing that it’d been almost two years since she’d eaten her own home-made adobo.
Two years? This seemed like an interminably long time for a Filipina not to be enjoying her national dish, cooked by her own hand.
My mother doesn’t stock vinegar in the kitchen, she explained, which instantly makes brewing a pot of the vinegary pork or chicken stew impossible. And the soy sauce that we Chinese use happens to be just a little too sweet for real adobo, it turns out.
Now, being a massive lover of the stuff, I immediately decided that Erlinda’s adobo drought needed to end. (This had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that my mouth often starts to water the moment I hear the word “adobo.”)
So, with some instructions from Erlinda on what she needed for her adobo, off we went.
In my Brooklyn kitchen, I make adobo with some frequency. It’s a go-to dish when I crave a savory Asian stew to pour over a plate of rice and slurp up. It also helps that the pork adobo I make has been whipped together so often that I can practically do it with my eyes closed.
I also thought it would be the perfect contribution to January’s Let’s Lunch — a monthly virtual lunch-date and recipe swap a bunch of food bloggers spread out from San Francisco to Paris have been having since an international craving for BLTs took hold one Sunday a few months ago.
With Erlinda’s instructions in hand, I set off for Singapore’s Lucky Plaza, a mall that’s filled with Filipino cafes and mini-marts.
Back home in Baguio, Erlinda uses two main ingredients for the adobo recipe she gleaned from her Mom: Silver Swan soy sauce and Rose vinegar.
Silver Swan was a cinch but Rose vinegar was nowhere to be found — Erlinda, however, assured me that Datu Puti, the apparent Filipino vinegar brand of choice in Singapore, was a worthy substitute.
With those in hand, we prepped some potatoes, garlic, bay leaves, shallots and peppercorns, and the cooking began.
How was the adobo? Not earth-shaking but tremendously satisfying — a quality we should all be lucky to have in a home-cooked meal. The balance of vinegar and a particularly deeply savory soy sauce with peppercorns, shallots and garlic was lovely. And the dish was incredibly easy to put together.
This recipe, I’d say, is a keeper.
As I type this, Erlinda is up in the air somewhere over the South China Sea, heading back to Baguio for the first time in two years.
On the other side, she has her family, her husband, her four-year-old son waiting for her.
And perhaps, too — I hope — a big bowl of her mother’s adobo.
If you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.
And don’t forget to see other Let’s Lunchers’ hearty stews below:
Cathy‘s Pichelsteiner stew at Showfood Chef
Danielle‘s Thai Green Curry at Bon Vivant
Ellise‘s Mom’s Vegetable Beef Stew at Cowgirl Chef
Nicole‘s Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous at Pinch My Salt
Stephanie‘s Hearty Lentil Stew with Smoked Sausage at Cosmic Cowgirl
Erlinda’s Chicken Adobo
Bring two cups of water to boil in a large wok, then add shallots, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, soy sauce and vinegar. Bring that to a boil and then add chicken and salt. Cover the mixture, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 25 minutes. Add potatoes, cover and boil for 10 more minutes.
Serve with rice.