Adobo: Our Unofficial National Dish

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Written and Photograped by Mark Suarkeo. Mark Suarkeo, is a social Entrepreneur with an interest in environment and sustainability; plant-based health advocate and CFO (Chief Foodie Officer) for Bayatakan Farm Experience

It’s safe to say that just about every Filipino loves adobo. Sweet, savoury, and tangy describes the quintessential Philippine stew in a nutshell. In terms of cooking it, it’s super simple to prepare, and the traditional native dish doesn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. Although there are multiple variations of this delectable dish, it is typically served over rice, and the main ingredients include vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorn, and soy sauce.

Traditionally cooked in kulon or clay pots, Filipino natives came up with this recipe as a way to help prolong its shelf life. The use of vinegar, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, allowed Filipinos to store the cooked dish without it becoming spoiled. Salt was an original ingredient also used to help with preservation. However, the introduction of soy sauce (or toyo) by the Chinese has since replaced salt in most recipes. Although, this hasn’t stopped some traditionalists who still include it in their homemade versions.

Eggplant adobo or adobong talong is just one variation of many types of adobo dishes. Eggplants — also known as aubergine or brinjal — are warm-weather vegetables, suitable for the Philippines’ tropical climate. They are among the country’s top producing vegetables and are often the main source of income for local farmers.

These perennial plants can last for up to three days when stored in a cool and dry place, which makes them great for leftovers. They have a slightly sweet flavour with a meat-like texture making them a good alternative for vegetarians. Replacing the standard chicken and pork ingredients with eggplant provides a greater source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eggplants are also rich in fibre, which helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol that the body absorbs. In addition, its antioxidant properties can help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Preparation Tips

Using the base ingredients as described above will provide the essence of Philippine adobo’s flavours. When cooking with eggplant, be aware that it tends to absorb anything that it is cooked with. Its spongy nature can especially soak in too much cooking oil, leaving it tasting overly greasy. I recommend cutting the eggplant crosswise about 2 inches in length and leaving the skin intact. Choosing smaller sized eggplants when purchasing them is best.

Frying the eggplants first until browned and then adding them to the adobo sauce will help prevent them from becoming too soggy. Also, try adding some okra to give your immune system an extra boost. The healthy fibre in okra is good for the bacteria in the intestines, which can build your immunity against viruses and infections. Next time you decide to make adobo, consider cooking eggplant and okra adobo because it’s not only delicious, it’s highly nutritious.

Remember, happiness is great food with great company!

Continue to eat well, be healthy, and show some love and support for your local farmers.

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