Mention Filipino cooking and adobo comes to mind. For some reason, the dish itself is an unequivocal declaration of being Pinoy. I like the way The Wily Filipino puts it: “It’s an unambiguous declaration of ethnic presence, an olfactory attack on the mainstream: We’re here and you can smell it… adobo is uncomplicated, a symbol that at once signifies everything (identity, colonialism, ethnic pride) and nothing, or rather, nothing but itself.”
It isn’t the national food — lechon is. But while lechon conjures images of fiestas and large gatherings, adobo evokes feelings of casual meals with the family peppered with laughter and joyful conversations.
Adobo evokes memories of one’s mother lovingly preparing a meal in the warm kitchen. It evokes feelings of comfort and family. My mother cannot cook if her life depended on it but I associate adobo with happy family memories just the same — my kids’ and husband’s gusto and contented faces whenever we sit down to an adobo meal. That’s why I think I can cook adobo in a hundred different ways and not tire of experimenting.
There’s nothing extraordinary about this adobo recipe. It is the basic adobo recipe except for the addition of fresh button mushrooms. A combination, really. There’s pork adobo and mushrooms adobo; why not pork and mushrooms adobo?
- 1 kilogram pork belly skin on
- 1 whole head garlic segmented and crushed
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup vinegar depends on how sour you want your adobo
- 1/3 to 3/4 cup dark soy sauce depends on how salty you like it
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 kilogram fresh button mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons sliced onion leaves
Cut the pork belly into into 2-inch cubes. Place in a shallow cooking pan (a wok is best) and pour in the vinegar. Add the crushed garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a boil without stirring. Let boil for a few minutes and stir. Continue boiling until quite dry and the pork starts to render fat. Cook the pork in its own fat for a few minutes or until the edges are nicely browned.
Pour in the soy sauce and a cup of water. Simmer for an hour or until the pork is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the mushrooms and stir a few times. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the onion leaves and serve hot with rice.
Another way to cook the adobo — the lazy way — is to partially cook a whole slab of pork belly before cutting it into pieces. This was how I did it when I cooked the pork and mushrooms adobo in the photo. The pork belly was still frozen and there wasn’t time to let it thaw. Since there was no way I could cut it while frozen, I placed it in the wok, skin side down, added the vinegar, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. I let it boil in the vinegar then lowered the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. I didn’t need to add water because the frozen pork expelled enough water to make sure there would be enough liquid.
I turned off the heat after 30 minutes and let the pork sit in the remaining liquid for 15 minutes. Then, I lifted the pork belly out and cut it into 2-inch cubes. I returned the cut pork into the wok, turned on the heat and waited for the pork to render more fat. I cooked the pork in its fat, stirring until the edges started to brown. I poured in the soy sauce and water, and let everything boil. Then I covered the wok, turned down the heat and simmered the adobo for another 30 minutes. Then I added the mushrooms, stirred and simmered the adobo for another five minutes.