Whenever you ask a non-Filipino what their favorite Filipino dish is, they would probably answer adobo. We know because we always get this same response whenever we ask a foreign celebrity what they want to try when they come to the Philippines. The reason for this is most likely the good things they’ve heard about the dish, and their curiosity which led them to try it out for themselves.
Sometimes dubbed as the “national dish” of the Philippines, the adobo is one of the simplest dishes you can cook. It’s a simple but delicious Filipino classic that has everyone excited when it’s served on the table. (Read: 3 Dishes Inspired by Empowered Women in History)
But did you know that the adobo’s cooking method isn’t fully Filipino?
History of Adobo
The word ‘adobo’ comes from the Spanish term ‘adobar,’ meaning ‘marinade’ or ‘pickling sauce.’ And while this is a reason for people to associate the food with our colonizers, there is virtually nothing else to tie the food with the Spaniards.
According to food historians, adobo already existed even before we were colonized— it just didn’t have an “official” name. They added that its existence can be attributed to the Philippines having a warm climate.
A warm climate would mean easier spoilage for food, which is why early Filipinos thought of ways to prolong the shelf life of dishes. And what better way to do this than utilize the acidity of the vinegar and the saltiness of soy sauce to fend off bacteria? Thus, the adobo was born. (Read: 3 Tips to Prolong Shelf Life of Fruits and Vegetables)
The use of vinegar can also be connected to our Asian neighbors, who also use the condiment for their own cuisines. Hence, the adobo is somewhat of a mixed heritage cuisine.
Just like many other dishes, adobo variations have been made as time passed. Different regions in the country have their own versions of the popular dish, based on their unique cuisines. (Read: Adobo Challenge: Fun Twists to an All-Time Filipino Favorite)
The most basic and simplest one is the traditional adobo, which uses only soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, and black pepper for the sauce. But there’s also a gata version of adobo which adds coconut milk to the sauce, adobong puti which only uses vinegar, and even a Chinese adobo which has a lightly sweeter sauce because of added sugar.
These are just the tip of the iceberg because surely, there are more places that have their own versions of this classic dish as well!