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Lola’s Adobo

It always surprises me when people tell me that they’ve never had Filipino food. But then I realize that a lot of people in America are not Filipino, and because of that, were not fortunate enough to grow up with a Filipino grandma that was always in the kitchen, insisting, ”You eat, na,” no matter what time of day it was, because she felt they were too skinny.

I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t always a fan of Filipino food (in fact, there are some Filipino delicacies I am still not brave enough to ingest). I was an American latchkey kid. I wanted Chef Boyardee and Sunny D. I would roll my eyes when I came home from school and the air was thick with the aroma of garlic or patísbecause I knew I would be made to eat whatever was in the bubbling pot in the kitchen. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy eating my lola’s cooking, I just didn’t appreciate it at the time because I didn’t want to sit and eat, I just wanted to watch cartoons. But now, now that my lola’s gone and my palette has somewhat matured, I’ve been craving the tastes of the Philippines, the tastes I was lucky enough to grow up with.

Now, unless you live in Niles, IL, it seems that there aren’t a lot of places where you can get Filipino food. Adobo is as basic Filipino cuisine as you can get – the national dish, I’m told – and it’s my opinion that everyone should try it at least once. So I encourage you to make it yourself, so you can at least you can say you are somewhat familiar with Filipino food, and you can impress your friends of Pacific Island heritage who usually scoff at you because your scope of international cuisine means making a stop at Chipotle.

So without further ado,

The Recipe for my Lola’s Adobo –


1 lb chicken legs & thighs

1&1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1&1/2 tsp ground pepper OR 1 tsp peppercorns

(Marissa’s caveat: I’ve always hated biting into the peppercorns – they’re like eating the paper in your fortune cookie – so I usually use ground pepper. But if you’re careful and can fish them out before serving, I recommend using peppercorns. I feel like they release flavor better in a stewing pot

1 bay leaf

a pinch brown sugar


Put all of the ingredients listed in a pot and let it boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Stir intermittently. Poke the legs and let them bleed (this is something my grandma told me to do, but these days if my chicken parts seem bloody I wash them first and that seems to take care of it). Boil for 15 more minutes.

Make sure to keep stirring because you want to coat the entire piece of chicken with the mixture that is reducing at the bottom of your pot. This also keeps it from burning. 

I think my grandma added more water as she cooked, because whenever I make this my sibau always turns out thick, almost like BBQ sauce. But I kind of like it like that. Feel free to add more water if you feel your sauce is getting too thick.

So there you go. A basic, easy to make Filipino dish (seen here served with rice and mango slices). Everywhere you go, and depending on who’s cooking, it’s different, but as long as you’ve got the vinegar, garlic and soy sauce, you can call it Filipino adobo. So experiment with it a little. Go ahead and make my lola’s recipe your own.

Thanks for making me eat, lola.

~ M

Posted by: Marissa

Category: Uncategorized

5 May, 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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