Monday, November 7, 2011

Memories of Vinegar & Chicken Adobo

When I smell vinegar, I think of my Lola. She used vinegar for just about everything - to wipe down the windows and the TV, to make dipping sauces for her eggrolls, to make marinades for her meats.

My grandma used half a jug of vinegar for her chicken adobo. Adobo is a traditional Filipino dish with chicken, pork or squid in a marinade of vinegar, soya sauce and garlic. The vinegar helps tenderize the meat and gives it a tangy flavour. Soya sauce, garlic, sugar and seasonings cut the tanginess.

The distinctive smell of adobo takes me back to my childhood. I picture my Lola standing by a boiling cauldron, with a wooden spoon in one hand, meat clever in the other.
My Lola, circa 1970s in Chicago, USA.
There are as many adobo recipes as there are Filipino cooks. Some cooks like their meat crisp and brown on the outside. This method involves frying. That's one step too many for me. Mine is the quick and easy, one-pot method.

This is a laid-back, forgiving recipe. If you find the taste too acidic, simply add more sugar or soya. If you prefer more zing, add more vinegar. It's best to marinade the meat for about 3 hours and simmer over medium low heat. As it's simmering, this is when you can tweak the taste.

Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it into another dish. Reduce the marinade to thicken.

Pour the punchy sauce over the chicken. My gang likes their adobo with rice, tomatoes and lots of sauce. I like to nibble on the whole garlic cloves that have been simmering in the salty, sweet vinegar.

AK's Chicken adobo with rice, tomatoes, squash and cauliflower
I spent my childhood enjoying the aromas and dishes my Lola created. Next week, on  November 17, she would have turned 103. 

AK's Chicken Adobo
6 chicken legs, skin removed
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried basil
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and skinned
3 bay leaves

Serves 6.


  1. If this tastes half as good as it looks it is going to be awesome! Ii am so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. Sorry to hear of your struggles but glad to hear that you are on the road to recovery!

  2. Hi Tired Tim,
    let me know how the adobo works out. It's really fast and easy and no baby-sitting required! You can let the meat simmer for about 15 minutes and do other things. Thanks for the comment.