My sister constantly emails me links to recipes, Funny or Die videos, and a whole lot of online features on travel and yoga (the last one I haven’t been doing much of recently, eep). The past month, she emailed me Mark Bittman’s take on chicken adobo, which he introduced as a Philippine classic that a number of his friends and readers call “the best chicken dish in the world.” And who are we to argue? 🙂 Salty from the soy sauce, sour from the vinegar, garlicky and rich from the flavor of the meat (chicken or pork), adobo is absolute comfort food for many Filipinos.
Last week, adobo also got the attention of the New York Times. In the story, “The Adobo Experiment,” Sam Sifton wrote about the Philippines’ unofficial national dish that had me craving for a serving with a mound of hot white rice. It featured the chicken adobo version of Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, which calls for coconut milk. Different regions in the Philippines, even different households, have their own take on adobo but the common ingredients include soy sauce, vinegar (different kinds of vinegar), garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Some add sugar, coconut milk, chilies or all of the above. Even how it is cooked–tossed all together in a pot and slow-cooked, pan-fried, broiled–there are many, many ways.
Since I have been craving for some adobo and there were still lamb chops in the fridge, I decided to cook a lamb version of adobo tonight. I love the rich flavor of lamb and it goes perfectly with the garlicky, salty, vinegar taste of adobo. I have cooked it before using a friend’s recipe, which me and my meat-loving husband and brother absolutely loved. It calls for being cooked over low heat for two hours though, and since I wanted to cook something a little quicker (by an hour), I used the Yummy magazine recipe by Rachelle Santos (April 2010):
500 grams lamb chops, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 head native garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcesterhire sauce
sugar to taste
1) Place all the ingredients (except sugar) in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, without stirring the mixture.
2) Let the mixture simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until lamb is fork tender.
3) Transfer the lamb to a bowl. Continue to simmer the sauce until slightly thick; season with sugar. [I added about a teaspoon and it didn’t taste “Chinese sweet and sour.”] Add the meat back to the pot and let it simmer for another minute.
4) Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Serves 2 to 3. [As much as I love lamb adobo, it’s quite a calorie-rich dish, so spread the calories and serve it to 4 to 6 people.]
While the garlic and salty flavors were there, the vinegar taste was a little more dominant, which is fine by me since I love all things sour. I also loved how the garlicky lamb adobo I cooked before using my friend’s recipe turned out. Here’s that recipe. He didn’t have exact measurements though so you can just follow your own adobo recipe measurements (or the Yummy version):
leg of lamb pieces cut into squares [or lamb shoulder and lamb chops, which I used before], must have fat [You can also throw some pieces with bone and marrow in to add flavor]
red cane vinegar
garlic, crushed or whole garlic cloves [I like to just crush the cloves. One head or a little more is fine to make it really garlicky]
Mix all ingredients together and marinate lamb for a few minutes. Set aside the marinade and cook the meat in some olive oil until brown. Once brown, put the marinade sauce into pot and simmer over low heat for around 2 hours. Once everything starts to boil you can stir occasionally. When lamb is dark and starts to fall apart if you poke it with a fork, you’re good to go. 🙂
Before I forget, adobo tastes even better after the second or third heating, when the flavors seep in even more into the meat. But if you want to lessen the fatty flavor (and content), just scoop out the white fat that will settle on top of a bowl of adobo after it stays in the fridge, before you reheat it. It won’t be the prettiest sight and you would want to get on a treadmill. Yes, enjoying lamb adobo has its price.