How to cook the perfect Philippine adobo

Three top Filipino chefs — Claude Tayag, Fernando Aracama, and Jerry Cruz— share their version of the Philippines' popular comfort food

It's a dish that singularly put the Philippines on the culinary map, easily a national favorite and one that has made it into the homes of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who has published her own Philippine adobo version on her lifestyle website goop. So how does one cook the perfect adobo? We asked three top Filipino chefs to share their recipes.

Photo courtesy of Claude Tayag 

Claude Tayag's pork belly ribs adobo 

"A reasonable amount of fat is essential to the taste and texture of a proper Filipino adobo. When the dish is done and the rendered fat has helped to develop the taste of the dish, it can be skimmed off. Pork belly or ribs works best since it is layered with fat and skin. When braised, the fat helps caramelize the sauce while keeping the meat tender and moist.

The secret to making a good adobo is that it shouldn’t be served on the day it's cooked. Like all stews made with vinegar, wine or tomatoes, it should be kept a day or two to let the acidity mellow, with every piece of meat absorbing all the flavors of the sauce," said Tayag.

1 kilo pork belly with ribs, cut into 2-inch slices along the ribs
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves 
2 cups water, add more if necessary

In a non-reactive bowl (stainless, ceramic or glass), combine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper and bay leaves. Add pork into the mixture, making sure each piece is well coated. Marinate for at least 1 hour. Heat the pan and put 2 tbsp oil. Fry the meat pieces until brown. Reserve the remaining liquid/marinade. Pour in the remaining marinade and add 2 cups water into the frying pan. Simmer over low heat until pork is tender. Add more water if necessary. Allow to cool in the pan. Transfer into a container with lid. Refrigerate for a day or so, and reheat when needed.

About Claude Tayag
Pampanga-born Claude Tayag runs Bale Dutung, a reservation only restaurant, featured on Anthony Bourdain's TV show, No Reservations. Check Tayag's latest book Linamnam: Eating One's Way Around the Philippines, chronicling his culinary journeys with his wife Mary Ann Quioc, available at National Bookstore and Powerbooks.

Fernando Aracama's beef adobo sa tuba 

Photo courtesy of Aracama

500 gms boneless beef  short rib
120 ml/½ cup tuba (coconut sap) vinegar
120 ml/½ cup soy sauce
6 pcs garlic cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
corn oil for deep frying
green banana chips for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Add enough water to cover the beef. Bring to a simmer. Cover & cook until the meat is tender. Remove the meat and allow to cool. Strain the sauce, and taste & adjust the seasoning or add water if the sauce is too salty. Thicken lightly with cornstarch. Keep warm. Heat some oil in a pot. Deep fry the beef adobo until crisp & lightly brown. Remove the beef adobo from the oil & toss with the adobo sauce. Serve with green saba banana chips. 

About Fernando Aracama
Negros-born Fernando Aracama is the executive chef and owner of Aracama, a Filipino restaurant and cocktail bar. He is a chef judge on reality cooking show MasterChef Philippines

Jerry Montenegro Cruz's chicken and pork adobo

Photo courtesy of Jerry Cruz


1/2 kilo cubed pork
1/2 kilo chicken leg and breast
10 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp peppercorn
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 bay leaves
chicken stock

Sear the chicken and the pork in a sauce pan until brown on all sides. Then add all the ingredients, cover and simmer for a few minutes. Add the chicken stock —if you are using the cubed variety, then dilute it in a little water—and keep the liquid boiling until the meat is tender. Take the meat out of the pan and set it aside. Take some of the sauce off the pan and set aside, leaving what’s left to slightly thicken. Then add the meat to the thickened sauce and serve on a plate, pouring over the remaining sauce you've reserved earlier and garnish. 

About Jerry Montenegro Cruz
Chef Jerry Montenegro Cruz has prepared meals for the likes of former US First Lady Hilary Clinton on her visit to Manila, and the Prince of Brunei. He has over 13 years of experience as chef of hotel restaurants here and abroad. He is the executive chef of Quest Hotel and Conference Center in Cebu. Prior to this, he was head chef of Diamond Hotel in Manila, executive chef of Misibis Bay in Albay, chef de cuisine at Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16, and was overall in charge of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s a la carte kitchen.

Published September 2015