Skip to content

An Experiment: Pork Adobo

February 3, 2011

I’ve been sitting here trying to start this post unsuccessfully and it’s all because of one question I’ve been asking myself: Why am I reluctant to share this dish?

These are the answers I’ve come up with:

  • Who needs another adobo recipe?
  • There are other authorities on Filipino cooking.
  • There’s no way I’ll make it look appetizing. Adobo is brown and often looks unappealing to uninitiated eyes.
  • I wanted my first adobo post to feature my traditional recipe and I deviated a bit on this one.

At the end of the day (literally), here I am sharing it with you due to another question. Why not?

  • There may be many adobo recipes out there already but they’re not mine.  There’s room for one more, right?  After all, it took quite a few attempts before I came up with a recipe that came close to my mother’s version (which I think is perfect).  I couldn’t just use her recipe because she never measures anything so I ended up combining three different ones to arrive at the current water/vinegar/soy sauce proportions I use today.  Lots of trial and error.
  • Having said that, I still don’t consider myself an authority on adobo but I did grow up eating it and I was lucky enough to be raised by wonderful cooks.  I know what adobo should taste like, or at least the way I would be happy with it.  Adobo is a nuanced dish–it may be simple to prepare but it requires a balancing act.  As I mentioned above, the right proportions on the liquids is necessary to achieve the perfect balance between salty, tart and just a hint of sweet. I’ve tasted many that are as boring and flat as this dish tends to look; a pity really, since when done right, adobo is brightly flavored and multi-dimensional despite (or perhaps because of) its few, humble ingredients.
  • My husband was away skiing with his buddies recently so I spent that entire weekend playing around with my new makeshift food photography “studio” (read: cardboard box and white paper).  And as it happened, adobo ended up being one of my subjects.  While adobo is served either “wet” (my usual preparation) with its braising liquid (the sauce) or “dry” where the meat is fried after cooking, I opted to share with you the dry version here.  I’ll share both preparation methods with you below.
  • Though I have prepared it many times before, I’ve always cooked adobo with chicken and never with pork.  First deviation. I also experimented by marinating the meat first in non-traditional adobo ingredients (kecap manis and white balsamic vinegar) and broiling it before proceeding with the normal cooking process.  Second and third deviations.  But…I was very happy with the results.  The finished dish tasted exactly like I had hoped it would.  The kecap manis provided the mild sweetness that is typically achieved by a longer cooking time (or by adding a bit of sugar).  The pre-broiling of the meat also gave the dish a nice color and kept the small-ish pieces of meat from falling apart while braising.  I browned the meat again after cooking and drizzled some sauce over it immediately before serving.

Oh, by the way, I experimented further with this recipe by adding some liver to it to make it even richer.  I liked it a lot but I won’t make you do it, too.

Pork Adobo

  • 2 – 2 1/4 lbs pork (I used boneless pork ribs though it’s more common to use pork belly)
  • 3 – 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 large onion or 1 small to medium
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 – 1 cup vinegar (I use sugarcane vinegar which is slightly less acidic than regular distilled vinegar)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup soy sauce

For pre-browning the pork (optional)

  • 2 tbsp kecap manis
  • 2 tbsp regular soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

* The easiest way to prepare adobo is to throw all the top ingredients in a pot (try not to use a pot that’s too large to cover the meat with the liquid) and simmer uncovered until the meat is tender, usually 40 – 45 minutes.

For this version, you can first pre-brown the pork by tossing in the marinade above and broiling until at least two sides are brown.  Next put the meat in a pot and add the garlic, peppercorns, the onion and bay leaves.  For the liquids, start by adding only the smaller measurements above: 1 cup water, 3/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup soy sauce.  Bring to a boil then simmer for about 40 minutes or until the meat is tender.

There is not one correct way to prepare adobo, it’s a matter of taste. I like mine not too tart, not too sweet and definitely not too salty. I like to taste the hint of garlic and peppercorns in the sauce so I always test the sauce several times during the cooking period.  I let the pot simmer for about 20 minutes then I see what it may need.  I don’t really recommend tasting too soon before this because the vinegar flavor takes time to mellow out.  Also the variety of soy sauce and vinegar you use will affect the final product so just use this as a guide. Lastly, for this version, I ended up adding the last 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup vinegar and the remainder of the soy sauce.  This wasn’t really necessary but I prefer a lot of sauce in my adobo.

When the meat is tender, your adobo is ready.  To make a “dry” adobo like I have here, you can brown some of the meat pieces in a little oil before serving.  You can drizzle the sauce on top or serve on the side with rice and fish sauce and jalapeño peppers as a condiment.

One last thing, like most braised dishes, adobo tastes even better the next day but don’t let that stop you from digging into it as soon as it finishes cooking!

36 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 6:03 AM

    Looks wonderful to me! And I think you did it justice in those photos — the white plate definitely makes it pop. :-p

    The pork looks reminiscent of a Peruvian dish my family always fries up. Yum!

  2. February 4, 2011 6:46 AM

    You know I love a good pork adobo! I can identify with your initial concerns, but you have no need to worry! Your pork adobo looks both attractive and delicious (and I can tell it is!). Interesting, my dad is a fan of the dry adobo, something I did not know until recently! I’ll tell you the full story in person 🙂 Now I”m hungry for adobo!

    • February 7, 2011 12:05 PM

      My dad is also partial to dry adobo. I like some crispy bits myself but I always have to have lots of sauce on the side!

      I’m sorry I didn’t hear the story behind your dad’s similar preference–will have to make sure you tell me about it next time. 🙂

      • February 7, 2011 12:54 PM

        Oh I completely forget to tell you! Ok…next time…

        And yes, I love my rice covered with sauce!

  3. February 4, 2011 6:56 AM

    Any adobo is always welcome. No matter how simple and well known it is, I think everyone has their own personal way of preparing it according to their own taste. I like the addition of balsamic vinegar and kecap manis. I have to say that I will gladly eat the one with liver.

  4. February 4, 2011 7:09 AM

    I love it Jean. Your detailed explanation and thought process is refreshing. I would love this dish because I love tangy/salty/ with a bit is sweet combo. And I do love pork. Lovely photos too (=

    • February 7, 2011 12:07 PM

      Thanks, Lisa. I hadn’t planned such a detailed explanation for adobo but I’m glad you appreciated it. 🙂

  5. February 4, 2011 7:12 AM

    Hey Jean, you are my favorite authority on Filipino cooking;-)
    I like the photos showing the adobo two ways, the sauce looks pretty darn good and I like the way you set up your plate with the rice and small bowl of vinegar based sauce. Are their any good Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area? Might be fun to meet someday for lunch;-) Have a nice weekend, should be beautiful.

    • February 7, 2011 12:09 PM

      Why thank you, Patty! There are some good Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area but I’ll have to think about which one would be worthy of a visit. I’d love to meet you for lunch someetime either way! 🙂

  6. February 4, 2011 7:59 AM

    It is great that you tried. Good job. It looks great.

  7. February 4, 2011 8:54 AM

    Looks great – I think the pork looks super delicious in these photos!

  8. gingerbreadbagels permalink
    February 4, 2011 8:58 AM

    You did an amazing job with the adobo, it looks sooo good. I wish I had some right now!

  9. February 4, 2011 9:23 AM

    Looks great! I just got back from the philippines and ate tons of adobo while I was there. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with posting another adobo recipe! There’s just so many variations and they’re all so different…

  10. February 4, 2011 10:12 AM

    I have been told of adobo by filippino friends in Lebanon but have never had it. Thanks to you, I know who I will turn to when I decide to make it!

  11. February 4, 2011 11:38 AM

    I’m glad you decided to post this recipe. I do not know any famous trustful pork adobo recipe so if I will ever try it, I sure will take yours as clear model. See? There is room for your recipe too 🙂
    I hope you get to spend many more weekends experimenting and having such a great success ’cause it means more cool recipes for us 🙂
    Have a great (experimenting) weekend!

  12. February 4, 2011 11:50 AM

    Fantastic Jean! You can never have too many adobo recipes. Your pics look great too! Makes me want to dig right in!!!

  13. February 4, 2011 8:35 PM

    The nice thing about Adobo is that it is such a personal dish, any deviation from the traditional makes it all the more interesting. I like how you used kecap manis and balsamic vinegar.

  14. February 4, 2011 9:26 PM

    looks tasty to me and wow love your photography

  15. February 5, 2011 9:05 AM

    Jean – you said you were worried about how to present – your presentation looks absolutley divine! I bet this tasted wonderful and even though it is early in the morning and I am super hungry, this would be just perfect!!! Nicely done!! 🙂

  16. magicofspice permalink
    February 5, 2011 2:48 PM

    Well you have certainly found a way to make it look beautiful…lovely recipe 🙂

  17. February 5, 2011 10:29 PM

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m afraid to ask, since I’ve not encountered kecap manis, is it possible to substitute with soy sauce? This is an elegant dish.

    • February 7, 2011 12:14 PM

      Christine, the traditional way of preparing adobo does not require kecap manis. I just used it to help the caramelization process when I pre-broiled the pork. The most traditional way to prepare this is to just throw all the ingredients into the pot (minus the kecap manis and balsamic vinegar) and simmer until the meat is tender. My experiment with dry adobo here achieved the same taste for “wet” adobo, my normal way of cooking it. 🙂

  18. February 6, 2011 10:39 AM

    I’ve never had adobo so this was a great introduction. I’ve read about this balance of flavors before and so it was interesting to read about the marinade you used. I’m glad you shared this with us! 🙂

  19. February 6, 2011 2:00 PM

    I’m glad you decided to post this and share your adobo recipe. My Mom also makes a fantastic adobo, but I’ve never tried making it. I’ll have to watch her make it one day and take notes or video her making it because she doesn’t measure either.

    Now I’m going to be thinking about it all day (and since its Superbowl Sunday…we aren’t having anything nearly as delicious for dinner). 🙂

    • February 7, 2011 12:16 PM

      Cristina, if you ever take a video of your mom cooking adobo, I hope you post it. It would probably look like my mom doing the same–just pour a little of this, a little of that…:-)

  20. February 6, 2011 2:48 PM

    Hi Jean
    your pork adobo looks delicious, you really did a great job with the presentation, and your images are beautiful!! And you certainly made it look like your a pretty good authority on Adobo to me!
    Hope you had a great weekend

    • February 7, 2011 12:17 PM

      Thanks, Dennis! I’m an authority on eating adobo, that’s for sure! Don’t know about the rest! 🙂

      Have a great week!

  21. February 6, 2011 8:28 PM

    Beautiful presentation. I’m glad you decided to share. 🙂

  22. February 6, 2011 9:22 PM

    Beautiful plate of food. I am big adobo fan!

  23. February 6, 2011 10:29 PM

    I am so glad that you met your hesitations with answers and posted such a wonderful recipe. From the photographs to the flavors….it sounds and looks just superb! Thank you for sharing, my blogging friend! Now I’m craving some Adobo. I’m sending you wishes for a happy and delicious week!

  24. February 7, 2011 6:24 PM

    This dish totally looks appetizing and I don’t believe I have enough adobo recipes 🙂 Im glad you decided to share.

  25. February 7, 2011 7:43 PM

    So glad you shared the recipe for your adobo -now I can make your adobo with Liren’s pancit, you two are my authorities on Filipino food! It is tough to make meat look appetizing, but your presentation and photos are gorgeous. Does the white box help?

  26. February 7, 2011 8:28 PM

    “Who needs another adobo recipe?” I do! I’ve never made adobo. I am going to give this a try. Thanks.

  27. February 10, 2011 10:12 AM

    The first time I ate adobo (I think he made chicken) was at a work potluck. My friend claimed that he snagged the recipe from an elderly Filipino woman and it was delicious, but it was also the first time I tried it so I had nothing to gauge this against. I love how you grilled the pork afterwards and your presentation is beautiful.

    You won’t believe this, but since my prime rib post, I’ve been telling my husband that I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian again, or at least cutting out meat. This morning, I was shocked to overhear my husband telling our baby that he was going to stop eating cow and pig as much as possible and make these a once in a while treat. Unbelievable, right? I’m going to save this recipe for a special meat night. I think we would both love-love-love your adobo. 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: