Adobo, The National Meal of The Philippines – Culinary Essay
Philippines, like all its other Asian counterparts, is a region of mouth-watering delights. Leading the roster of Filipino delicacies are the lechon (roasted whole pig or chicken), sinigang (chicken, pork or beef soup
usually prepared with tamarind and other ingredients), dinuguan (pork blood stew) and adobo (e.g. pork or chicken slow-cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, and garlic) Among these delectable meals, of course, adobo best fits the title, “The National Meal” along with the bamboo, mango, milkfish and carabao as other iconic symbols of the country.
The fact that adobo is well-loved by Filipinos, regardless of their social standing, home, province or region can not be denied. From the northernmost stretch of islands of Batanes to the vinta-dependent islets of Tawi-Tawi, adobo is a staple cuisine along with other regional favorites like the papaitan for the Ilocanos, pinikpikan for the Ifugaos and the Bicol Express for the Bicolanos. The dish is hugely popular among our native and indigent brothers as well as it is a must-eat among average and rich Filipinos alike. Different versions of the dish are usually the most-ordered meals on the menu of Filipino carinderias and restaurants; thus, signifying the nation’s penchant for adobo. The inviting smell of adobo lingers on our dining rooms every time we have our local gatherings or salu-salo. Even Filipino immigrants and overseas workers constantly crave for adobo abroad. Satiating their guilty pleasure, of course, only entails a session in the kitchen or a phone patch from home asking their loved ones to cook the most delicious adobo once they’ve reached Philippine shores again.
Aside from the fact that adobo is well-loved by Filipinos, the dish also makes use of many of our local ingredients giving adobo the distinct Filipino flavor. We can give credit to the pure cane vinegar for the adobo’s rich sour taste and to the locally-produced soy sauce for its savory and salty feel. Sitaw or kangkong can also be added for healthier alternative. For spicier versions of adobo, adding siling labuyo and recado enhances the over-all zest of the meal.
No other Filipino dish can also compete with adobo in terms of versatility and variety. Mixing vinegar, soy sauce and spices with either chicken, pork, fish, kangkong, sitaw or even crickets would yield to different varieties of the famous Filipino dish. Adobo sa gata, adobong matamis, adobong tuyo, adobong masabaw, adobo sulipan, adobo sa pinya, adobo sa kalamansi are only a few of the many ways to cook adobo. Adobo can also fill our pandesals, siopao, and puto, be made into adobo flakes, be poured evenly into our pizzas, and be mixed with spaghetti. And if those are not enough, local food companies have recently come up with adobo sauce and adobo spread.
Adobo has the support of the Filipino people, the flavor, and the versatility to be an icon of the country. The meal offers an exciting feast for the senses and is indeed most deserving of the hallmark, “The National Meal”.