The beauty of living in a country of more than 7000 islands like the Philippines is how a common tradition can have so many expressions. Because of how far and wide these 7000 islands span, it seems like each island was able to develop their own rich culture, from varying dialects to styles of clothing, and yet they are still connected by common threads.
If you are asked by anyone who has not yet tried Filipino food about what dish they should try first, the most likely response is usually Adobo. As the Philippines’ unofficial national dish, everyone knows what adobo is and can doze off into nostalgia thinking about their lola’s or their mom’s adobo. The recipe that is most familiar is the Chicken and Pork Adobo with its classic brown sauce. Made with garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and flavored with bay leaves and peppercorns. Even though the cooking process was (allegedly) taught to us by the Spanish, Filipinos have claimed the dish as their own. With that being said, everyone will tell you that their family adobo is the best and nothing you can do will convince them otherwise. Usually, that wouldn’t be a problem, except that the different cultures in the Philippines make different kinds of adobo. Which begs the question: which kind of adobo are you supposed to try?
Here are some of the different ways that the different parts of the country prepare everyone’s favorite Filipino food:
Pampanga offers the adobo variation that has a more transparent sauce, called Adobong Puti. The classic brown sauce is lost in this recipe because instead of flavoring the adobo with soy sauce, the Kapampangan cuisine goes for salt instead. Because of this, the sauce stays the color of the vinegar that is used.
Cebu’s adobo has the signature brown color, but not because of its sauce. Again, Cebuano adobo does not have any soy sauce, but it brings it one step further by not having any sauce at all! Adobong Pina-uga literally translates to “Dry Adobo”. The pork is first marinated in the garlic, vinegar, bay leaf and peppercorn sauce and cooked until all of the liquid has evaporated. They then proceed to allow the meat to brown and toast.
Iloilo has one of the more unique recipes on this list because of the flavors that they add. Not only that, but the sauce of their adobo is orange! This is caused by the Atsuete powder or oil that they add into their sauce. To compliment the nutty and peppery taste of the atsuete, they add ginger and lemongrass into the marinade.
The Bicol region, famous for its Bicol express, adds these flavors into their adobo as well. They add coconut milk and chili into their sauce, making it very reminiscent of the region’s favorite.
These recipes do not even cover half of the variations of adobo in the Philippines. It would probably take years for you to go to every single location to try each recipe. But food is a wonderful way to connect with and explore the different cultures in the country. So let your taste buds go on an exciting food trip through the different styles of adobo, because everyone deserves the best of what the Philippines has to offer!