Vinegar the major ingredient in adobo. Some might say that it’s what makes adobo ‘adobo’. Having too much vinegar in Adobo ingredients can overpower the sauce, making it too tart. Having too little can dilute the flavor. I recommend a one to one ratio of vinegar to soy sauce, but you should experiment according to your own tastes.
Most Filipinos would agree that Datu Puti Cane Vinegar (Sukang Maasim) is the best for an authentic Filipino taste. This is a sugar-cane vinegar with a sweeter taste. Most Asian markets should carry the brand. You can also find it on Amazon if you can’t find it at your local store.
Here are some other ideas for your adobo vinegar flavoring:
- Balsamic vinegar
- Pinot Grigio Vinegar
- Rice Wine vinegar
- Apple Cider vinegar
- Coconut vinegar
Using these or a mix of these can provide a unique signature to your cooking.
Soy sauce is another essential ingredient for adobo. It provides a salty counter-balance to the sour vinegar taste. As mentioned before, I like a one to one ratio of vinegar to soy sauce. Experiment with your cooking to see what you like.
For an authentic taste, try the Silver Swan soy sauce brand. Again, your local Asian store should carry the brand or you can order from Amazon. Kikkoman is also a good brand to use in a pinch.
The marinade sauce is delicious and goes well when poured over rice. You can depart from tradition and experiment with different things to give your sauce a unique, signature flavor. Adobo is great because it provides an ecclectic mix of sour, salty and sweet. Once you have mixed in all of the essential ingredients for the marinade (soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, garlic), then you can be creative with other ingredients.
Here are some ideas you can use for your sauce:
- Add some chicken liver to thicken up the sauce. Mash it up or puree and mix it in.
- Sprite or 7up can be added to increase the sweetness.
- Try brown sugar or maple syrup to add sweetness.
- Simply adding water can dilute the sauce if it is too strong.
- Add a tiny bit of anise to provide a sweet and aromatic taste.
- Add a bit of white wine for flavor.
- For a spicy sauce, add chili flakes
- Oyster sauce in just the right amount can be great
Adobo is usually made with chicken or pork.
For chicken, it is traditionally made from parts containing the skin such as the thighs and the wings. The skin adds juiciness and flavor to the overall stew. Marinating in the sauce will allow the soy sauce and vinegar to infuse into the meat. The meat will continue to absorb the marinade even after you have packed up the adobo for leftovers. That is why many Filipinos will tell you that it tastes even better the next day.
To experiment with the chicken you can try the following ideas:
- Remove the skin for a leaner meal
- Fry the chicken before cooking to get a crispy texture
- Cook with onions for added sweeness
- Try rubbing the chicken with lemon first
For pork, try to find some pork chops or pork loin and slice it up into bite-sized cubes. Country style pork ribs can work here as well for a more fatty texture. Filipinos enjoy the fatty parts as much as the meaty parts. Typically, you would broil the pork along with the sauce until the meat has browned. Another variation that you could try is to grill the pork before adding it to the pot.
This is a controversial ingredient. Adobo is not traditionally made with coconut milk. However, you can use it to add some thickness to the sauce for a more creamy texture and a richer flavor if you so desire.
As you can imagine, there are many other ingredients you can add to your dish to make it unique and to call your own. Here are some of the more common ‘accent’ ingredients:
- Green bell peppers