Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pork adobo

Unlike like difficulties with African recipes, I've been pretty happy with my excursions into Filipino cuisine. It generally doesn't require a lot of hard-to-find ingredients and its vinegar-intensive sauces make it unlike anything else out there. I wish I had some good story about why I've been trying them, but I just found a stash of Filipino recipes on-line and they looked interesting.

This particular recipe is a Philippine staple--one of the dishes that has a million variations. The only universals seem to be soy sauce, vinegar, plenty of garlic and an odd cooking technique. I tried to stick close to the Platonic ideal I grokked from the range of recipes I looked at.

1 pound pork butt or similar cut, cut in 1-2 inch cubes (or chicken)
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon paprika (most recipes call for black peppercorns, but I liked the paprika idea)
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 Tablespoons sugar (optional. Only a substantial minority of the recipes include it.)
2 Tablespoons cooking oil

1. Heat a medium saucepan on medium, add 1 Tablespoon oil and sweat the garlic and onion for a few minutes until softened.

2. Add soy sauce, vinegar, water, paprika, bay leaves and pork. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. If using, add sugar at 15 minutes.

3. When the pork is tender heat the other Tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Remove the pork from the sauce, drain it well, and add it to the pan. Turn the heat up under the sauce and boil until it is reduced in volume by half. Meanwhile, brown the pork over medium high heat.

4. When both are done, serve with rice.

The traditional way to serve pork adobo is to leave the meat dry and pour the sauce over a scoop of rice. Garnishes are unusual, but I'm big on garnishes so I looked for exceptions and found that tomato wedges and/or hard boiled eggs are not entirely unheard of.

The meat has caramelized well, which I attribute to the sugar I added, and has absorbed some flavor from the sauce (plus it's lying in a shallow pool seeping from the scoop of rice) so the pork flavor is prominent, but nicely accentuated by tart and salty notes. The pieces are crisp and chewy--rather more dried out than most Western palates are used to, but I gather that that's how they're supposed to be. I know a lot of Indonesian recipes call for meat cooked to this texture so it's not too surprising to find it called for in the Philippines. The sauced rice--deeply savory, slightly sweet and brightly tart--is the real star here. The meat is almost dispensable. The tomatoes are a great match with the sauce--salt and vinegar bring out tomatoes' best. The eggs, on the other hand, I could take or leave. I do like the richness a bit of yolk dissolved in the sauce brings. Maybe whisking in a raw yolk to thicken and enrich the sauce just before serving would work.

1 comment:

kat said...

I've been wanting to try adobo as well. It certainly looks easy enough.