It was a good adobo so I had to ask Edwin how he prepared it. He mentioned an unusual set of ingredients (for me anyway). There are a million ways to cook Adobo and just like any good recipe I wanted to be able to do it myself anywhere anytime.
Edwin told me to buy pork belly and ribs. I called Beefway Butchery at Kingsway Street about their prices. The lady said pork back ribs are more expensive than the side ribs because it is meatier.
I never did get a chance to go to Beefway. Two days before Canadian Thanksgiving, I saw what looked like high-quality meat at Osaka’s T&T Supermarket inside the Yaohan Mall in Richmond. So I got both pork belly and back ribs.
The Sunday night before Thanksgiving, Edwin demonstrated his Adobo version.
For around three kilos of chopped meat rinsed in water and drained, Edwin poured with restraint about five tablespoons of Heinz Apple Cider vinegar. “You don’t want the mix to be too sour.” He also said he prefers apple cider vinegar because it is less acidic than other types such as palm, coconut, or sugar cane vinegars. Then around 10 tablespoons of Maggi Seasoning (instead of the traditional Soy Sauce) which contains MSG. On top of the meat he dropped about 8 cloves of pressed garlic, two medium sized yellow onions chunked, around one tablespoon of vetsin (MSG), two tablespoon of white refined sugar, and one tablespoons of ground black pepper. Absolutely no salt as the Maggi is already sodium-laden, and no water as the meat will release plenty when heated. Upon setting the pot on high heat, Edwin put in three small bay leaves (laurel). Edwin said that he will definitely do some seasoning adjustment at some point.
Philippine cooking dictum dictates that one should not move, touch the contents in a pot when it is in a marinade of or while stewing in vinegar until the liquid boils, or with some chefs until the meat is almost done. I personally have in the past detected a less favorable taste when the ingredients are mixed prematurely.
So when the vinegary broth began to boil, Edwin tossed the pieces around, sideways, and up and down. He said it didn’t smell quite right yet because our nostrils were detecting a strong whiff of vinegar. Smell? Edwin does not adjust his cooking on taste but rather on smell.
He let the adobo boil for 10 minutes more in medium heat, and then came the reformulation. To counter the sour tang, Edwin added one more tablespoon of white sugar (although Edwin remarked brown sugar is better if available). Once the sugar was mixed, the aroma indeed changed from vinegary to a perfect ying yang balance of sour and sweet, pleasant to the nostrils.
By this time half of the meat was almost immersed in its juice. This is when we added about two cups of cubed potatoes. Twenty minutes later, the lid was taken off to reduce the sauce. The process of confit has begun. After almost an hour of cooking, Edwin turned off the heat. Throughout from start to finish, Edwin did not once taste test the dish – gauging only by the sense of smell.
Unlike other recipes which called for the meat to be hauled out, fried to make the skin crispier, and then reunited with the delicious sauce – with Edwin there was none of this. The pork belly skin would remain flabby.
The longer the meat marinates in its sauce the tastier – no rocket science here. The following day the Adobo was like a caterpillar that overnight became a butterfly. It was good on its own and with steaming rice, it was incredible. I did dip the meat in fish sauce to give it my personal preference of kick.
On my own I would drop the MSG, and for the coup-de-grace fry the pork bellies to make the skin crunchy.
It is a must on most meat dishes or seafood, or soup for that matter, the presence of bones which imparts flavor – a tip I learned from an elderly lady when I was in Southhaven, Mississippi. She said the local catfish was best cooked with its bones as opposed to a fillet. So do your adobo with ribs.
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