Adventuring into the Filipino food culture

Make this Filipino adobo dish!


Alessandra Arroyo

My Lola Elena Sunga, 79, said, “Having Filipino food in America makes me feel like I’m back home in the Philippines.”

Imagine you’re sick and your mother makes you garbanzo con arroz y pollo (chickpea with rice and chicken) to help make you feel better. The funny thing about garbanzo con arroz y pollo is that it is the equivalent of arroz caldo (rice soup), which is a Filipino dish that is made when you are sick. 

Spain colonized the Philippines from 1521 to 1898. Their rule ended when the Philippine Revolution happened. The colonization led to the creation of different dialects which contain Spanish words. For example, Chavacano, which is mainly spoken in Zamboanga City and the southern part of the Philippines, is a dialect that is Spanish-based. 

This is why many dishes that come from the Philippines will have around the same or similar name as that of a Spanish dish. An example of this would be flan, which is a dessert dish that is popular in Mexico; similar to that is the dish leche (milk) flan from the Philippines.

Often the dishes that many people get introduced to are lumpia, sinigang, adobo, and pancit. The main reason that these are likely the first dishes that people are introduced to is that the dishes are popular to have at parties and popular Filipino dishes in general. 

Ernesto Sunga, 83, shares his thoughts on Filipino food.

“Filipino dishes are sometimes so good [that] the American people now love it.”

The most popular dish from the Philippines is adobo. It became so popular that it is often called the unofficial national dish in the Philippines. 

Adobo is commonly made with chicken though you can substitute it with pork. You would think that a dish that is this popular would be a little hard to make, but no, not only is this dish popular, but what also helped it gain popularity is the fact it is quite easy to make. 

Adobo is made by first marinating the chicken (this step is optional but recommended); depending on how long (1 to 12 hours) you marinate the chicken will decide the amount of flavor you will get. During this process, the chicken will absorb most of the flavoring from the soy sauce and garlic (you can also include vinegar in this step). 

Next, you will take the chicken out of the marinade but leave the marinade to the side, as it will be used later. In addition, you will pan-fry the chicken for about one minute and 30 seconds on each side, so for a total of three minutes.

Then pour the marinade into the pan with the chicken and with the marinade also add in water. Let it boil. Once it starts to boil, add in bay leaves and whole peppercorn. This will take 20 to 25 minutes. Then add vinegar if you don’t have any in the marinade. Let it cook for about 10 minutes and then add sugar and salt (only if needed). 

Now that the adobo is done, put rice on a bowl or plate and put the adobo on top of it. There you made adobo, enjoy.