The classic signature dish of Filipino cooking is the adobo.
In the great spirit of free-wheeling language that the Philippines subscribes to, and the fact that English loves verbalizing nouns, you can "adobo" anything!
Traditionally, it's been used for meats and seafoods but it extends to vegetables and all and sundry. It's one of the great meta-recipes of all time!
As with all classic dishes, if you query three people, you'd probably get thirty recipes so to invoke a broad generalization, you are looking at a cooked sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and black peppercorns reduced to various degrees depending on the dish.
Filipinos from the Bicol region even add coconut milk but this is considered "strange". A friend's father once stage whispered to the CC, "'Some' people even add coconut milk!"
Some people indeed do! Some strange people indeed!
As the Japanese say, 十人十色 (ten people, ten colors — different strokes for different folks!)
The salt (from the soy sauce) and vinegar betray the tropical origins of the dish. An acidic dish like that can be stored without any refrigeration because bacteria cannot grow in that environment.
You might think that the vinegar would give it a really sharp taste but cooking the vinegar gives it this smooth rounded mellow taste that's hard to describe but entirely brilliant. It sets your taste buds alive without that mouth-puckering taste that a tart vinaigrette might invoke.
For this summer meal, since the CC has access to really fresh seafood, a squid adobo was made. The sauce is finished off with the ink which gives it an iodine-y edge of the sea. (All of this is extraordinarily traditional.)
The side salad is another classic accompaniment - radishes, tomatoes and roasted dried anchovies in a slightly spicy sour sauce.
They definitely do love their souring agents!
Radish Salad with Anchovies (Dilis)
4 red radishes (or 1 small daikon)
4-6 tbsp vinegar (to taste)
2 tbsp patis (Filipino fish sauce)
4 green chillies (minced)
2 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 cup dried anchovies
Cut the radishes really fine. A mandoline helps here. Chop the tomatoes.
Mix together everything but the anchovies. This stuff can be prepared ahead of time. Be warned that the mixture will leach water as time goes by. (Yes, this is desirable.)
(The CC keeps the above mixture in the fridge for ready access. He loves this dish beyond reason. It makes the perfect "no-cook" nutritionally-complete dish for summer with umami out the wazoo.)
Roast the dried anchovies on a skillet. They will burn really quickly since they are really really flat and small so you need to be careful. Set aside.
Right before serving, mix the dried anchovies with the mixture above including the liquid. Serve right away.
Adobong Pusit (Squid Adobo)
(Source: Burnt Lumpia.)
1 lb squid (squid ink separated)
1 large red onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic
2 green chillies
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup cane vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
8-12 black peppercorns
Clean the squid and separate the ink from the ink-sac. This is a messy process so proceed carefully. Cut the squid into rings and set aside.
(In a chicken adobo which doesn't have the blackness of the squid ink, the black peppercorns are kept whole but for a dish like this, you're better off grinding the peppercorns.)
In a pan, heat the oil. Fry the onions, garlic, and green chillies for a bit. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, water, black peppercorns and bay leaves. Let reduce for a bit.
(Your nose will tell you when the vinegar no longer has that sharp vinegary taste. There is a very very characteristic "adobo smell", and only experience can teach you this one at least until the CC invents Smell-O-Vision™!)
Bring to a boil. Take off the heat.
Toss in the squid, and squid ink. The heat will cook the squid just enough to be ready.