As a bachelor, deciding what to cook always depends on what’s in the fridge. For me, there are no hard and fast rules in cooking; it’s always a pleasure to play with traditional dishes and bend it according to my craving and taste. I just make sure it’s always edible.
Over the weekend, the fridge was almost empty except for a whole uncut chicken, some pieces of mushroom, a bell pepper, and some leftover fries from a previous fast food delivery. Ordering another delivery was easy – I could just open the food app – but nostalgia kicked in with the hunger pang and I thought of giving a traditional Pinoy dish a dash of French fries.
I decided to make Chicken Adobo – it’s quick and simple, and it’s the go-to dish for every Filipino. No slaving in the kitchen, and it takes minimal time to produce a hearty meal.
For the uninitiated, Chicken Adobo is a type of Filipino chicken stew. It’s a dish indigenous to the Philippines and every Pinoy family has their own way of cooking it. Adobo is also both a cooking technique (inadobo means to marinate in Tagalog) and name of the dish, like Chicken Adobo or Adobong Pusit (squid).
Preparing adobo is easy – you just need basic condiments like soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onion, peppercorns and bay leaves. You can also use oyster sauce and add chili powder or chili flakes, basil, turmeric and coriander powder – the latter two ingredients are not really needed, but as I said I always wanted to ‘experiment’ in cooking.
There are many variations of this classic Pinoy dish. In some provinces back home, people would add coconut milk and some would marinate the meat overnight to create a more powerful taste, but I always follow the technique my father taught me: “Create a meal in 30 minutes.” Unless, it’s Bulalo or Nilagang Baka (Filipino beef soup with vegetables).
Adobo is popular because it has a longer shelf life and it goes well with other dishes like stir-fried vegetables and fried fish. It also brings a lot of memories for me, as it’s the usual ‘baon’ (packed lunch) my mother prepared for me back in my school days.
I’ve learned the basics of cooking Adobo from my parents and over time, I’ve practised bending the rules to make my own rendition of this classic Pinoy dish. My family heritage has also greatly influenced my culinary experiments. I’ve got Chinese heritage on my mother’s side, and Chinese cuisine has a range of ingredients, techniques, dishes and eating styles – this is why I really love to experiment in the kitchen.
I’ve learned the basics of cooking adobo from my parents and over time, I’ve practised bending the rules to make my own rendition of this classic Pinoy dish. My family heritage has also greatly influenced my culinary experiments. I’ve got Chinese heritage on my mother’s side, and Chinese cuisine has a range of ingredients, techniques, dishes and eating styles – this is why I really love to experiment in the kitchen.
But in cooking adobo, I always follow the best method my father taught me, which is to simmer the sauce to perfection. Adobo should always look browned in oil and sauce before serving.
The best way to eat Chicken Adobo is to have it with hot steamed rice. Add some garnish on your plate, like sliced cucumbers and a couple of fresh basil leaves. And don’t forget to pour some of the adobo sauce over the rice to make your meal more flavourful and comforting.
How to cook Chicken Adobo (with a dash of French fries)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Serves: 4 to 5
- I kilogram chicken cut into serving pieces (skin on or off)
- I large red onion (chopped)
- 1 capsicum (sliced)
- 8-10 cloves garlic crushed
- 6-8 tbsp soy sauce (depends on personal taste)
- 4 tbsp white vinegar
- 2-4 tbsp oyster sauce (depends on personal taste)
- 1 tsp peppercorn (crushed)
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1-2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 bowl of pre-fried French fries
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
Chop the onion, crush the garlic and prepare the condiments.
Heat oil in a large skillet – but I prefer the Chinese wok (round-bottomed cooking pot), it reminds me of my Chinese ancestry and spreads the heat around evenly.
Sauté the crushed garlic and onion and put in the chicken pieces. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
Pour in vinegar and soy sauce. Add oyster sauce for extra flavour. Then season with black pepper and bay leaves. Add chili powder or chili flakes, basil, and turmeric, and coriander powder for the extra kick in taste.
Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender and thoroughly cooked for around 30 minutes then add the French fries.
Serve hot with steamed rice and side salad.
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