Unlocking the Mystery in Adobo

Adobo is a Filipino cuisine seen everyday (well, almost everyday) on Pinoy family dining tables and a perfect match for hot steaming rice. It’s easy to cook, no need for much fuss, yet it passes for an international cuisine. If you’re not less busy but want a delicious meal, adobo is right for you.

The whole idea with adobo is that you marinate the meat—pork, chicken or beef—but you don’t simply soak it in marinade. You cook it at once. And then you let the meat slowly absorb all the marinade flavors on low fire.


Adobo comes from the Spanish word “adobar” which means marinade, but traditional marinating means you soak raw food in a spice mixture and let it sit there for minutes or hours. With Filipino adobo, marinating takes place during slow cooking.

Light Brown Adobo

Adobo comes in different shades—brown, dark brown and light brown. It takes on various consistency or viscosity as well—thick or saucy, soupy, oily or dry. I love light brown adobo (like the one in the picture above) or dry. Dark brown adobo is okay but it’s often a bit salty to me. Light brown means a delicate concoction of vinegar and soy sauce where the vinegar takes subtle dominance over soy sauce. Not too much and not too little. A wrong approximation here can ruin everything.

Light brown adobo lets you appreciate the chicken meat or pork more than having it overwhelmed (or camouflaged) by too much soy. With dark brown adobo, it’s more like eating soy that has chicken or pork or beef with it and the tendency is to consume more rice to make up for the saltiness. With light brown adobo, it’s chicken or pork supplemented with some vinegar and soy to enhance meat succulence.

Dry Adobo

My late dad was an expert in cooking dry adobo. After cooking adobo the usual way, he took out the meat and deep-fried it. That’s when he was in a hurry. But when he was less busy, he let the cooked adobo simmer further in very low fire until the sauce dried up and only a small amount of oil from the meat or pork was left. That resulted to an extremely flavorful adobo you won’t forget as long as you live.

Quick-Fix Adobo

If you’re not less busy and you want adobo pronto on your dinner table, you can opt for a soupy adobo. As soon as the meat is cooked, serve it with its soup.  Most street-corner eateries do this because it proves more profitable for them. It tastes okay if you’re not fussy about tastes.

How to Cook

It’s so easy to cook adobo—another reason why I love cooking it. Simply put into the pot everything—crushed garlic, chopped onions, laurel leaf, black pepper, soy, vinegar and the meat. What’s the spice proportion? I always say, use your common sense in cooking. And then cook on low fire until the thick sauce appears. That’s it! Makes you less busy and have more time to do something else.

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