• Filipino pork and chicken adobo (Andrew Dorn)Source: Andrew Dorn
The soy and vinegar-based braise is a popular Filipino meal and anecdotally is also considered the national dish.
Camellia Ling Aebischer

28 Jan 2021 - 10:27 AM  UPDATED 2 Feb 2021 - 2:53 PM

--- Learn cooking techniques from across Asia with Diana Chan on the brand-new second season of Asia Unplated with Diana Chan, premieres Thursday 28 January on SBS Food, or stream it on SBS On Demand --- 


Whether it’s flaked or braised, for any Filipino, a plate of tart, savoury adobo over rice is hard to pass up. Though chicken is one of the most popular, the dish is also commonly found made with pork, beef, eggplant, seafood, or a combination of proteins.

Here are five fun facts about adobo, and a recipe from the second season of Diana Chan’s brand-new series, Asia Unplatedwhich premieres Thursday 28 January on SBS Food and is streaming on SBS On Demand.

Chicken adobo
Filipino pork and chicken adobo

Fry up any leftovers of this tasty braise til crispy and you'll have what's known in the Philippines as adobo flakes.

Vinegar is always added

The one thing that isn’t argued about when it comes to making adobo is that it’s made using a base of vinegar. Historically this was used to help keep food edible for longer as the vinegar acts as a preservative.

At its most basic, vinegar and soy are used to marinate meat which is then braised and the marinade reduced to create a flavourful sauce. 

Prior to the Chinese introducing soy sauce to the Philippines, adobo was said to have been prepared using a vinegar and salt marinade, with soy replacing the salt component. Since it’s become a mainstay in the recipe for so long, soy is considered by most to be an acceptable staple.

Typically bay leaves, garlic and pepper join the flavour party too.

The name translates in Spanish

‘Adobo’ in Spanish roughly translates to marinade or sauce. It’s hard to say exactly where the name of the dish came from, likely Spanish colonists, but it has other meanings around the world. In Spain, it refers to a specific process of marinating, in Mexico to a spicy, thick red sauce and in the Caribbean a seasoning or spice rub.

There are no limits

You can ‘adobo’ just about anything. From protein to vegetables, mushrooms or faux meat. The process is about the same for all of them, just marinate, braise, reduce and serve. Chicken and pork are often mixed to make a popular version of the dish.

The sauce is a delicate balance of sour and savoury, so make sure to follow the recipe and get the amount of vinegar and reduction just right - balance is key.

Chicken adobo: just one of many classic Filipino dishes worthy trying.

Adobo flakes are a thing

A crispy, dry version of this dish exists. It’s basically day-old pulled adobo that’s been fried until crispy and topped with extra fried garlic. You can find a recipe for it on the SBS Pinoy website here, or follow Diana Chan’s and flake then fry your leftovers.

There are heaps of variations

Like any popular dish, it looks different not just from city to city, but household to household. Some purists will marinate only in salt and vinegar, others in soy; some like it saucy, some dry. There’s even a version with coconut milk added called adobo manok sa gata.

Yasmin newman's chicken adobo is on the cards

Pork belly with ceviche (Sinuglaw)

Sinuglaw Sinuglaw, a Filipino of grilled pork belly and fish ceviche, brings together two popular cooking methods: sinugba, to grill; and kinilaw, to pickle in vinegar or citrus. These two very different dishes come together in a harmonious explosion of flavours.

Filipino roll cake (Brazo de Mercedes)

Filipino cuisine has an impressive lineup of cakes, and Brazo de Mercedes is no exception: a roll cake made from fluffy meringue, with a centre of rich egg yolk-based custard.

Fried chicken and adobo sliders are religion at this Filipino food truck
At Nanna Marce, food is a conduit for generosity and family values are served on a plate.
Filipino rolls filled with adobo (adobo pandesal)

These rolls, from Yasmin Newman's 7000 Islands cookbook, are a popular way to eat leftover adobo in the Philippines.