Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pork Adobo

Many, many years ago when I was an undergraduate at Humboldt State University, I shared the back half of the upstairs of an old house with several different roommates. Although Raul was not one of my original roommates, he certainly was my favorite. He was brilliant, easy-going, talented and had good taste in music. He also was a decent cook, certainly an upgrade from the roommate he replaced, a very nice young woman whose recipes always included condensed cream of mushroom soup. Raul's parents were from the Philippines, so he brought something different to the table when it was his turn to cook.

I'm sure that when he made his mother's pork adobo that it was the first time I had ever tasted fish sauce. He must have brought the fish sauce up with him from Sunnyvale because I'm sure it wasn't available in Arcata in 1977. I know the dish floored me. Such a simple dish, yet so full of flavor and richness.

When I realized I still had time to get in an entry to this month's Weekend Wokking, I knew it would have to be Mrs. T's Adobo. Vinegar is at the heart of this dish and cuts the richness of the pork. The finished dish tastes like tangy, moist carnitas. It's wonderful with plain rice and a side of stir fried greens.

Mrs. T's Adobo (as I remember it)

3 to 3 1/2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into one and a half inch cubes
3/4 cup vinegar (I think Raul used palm vinegar; I use coconut)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce ( I use Vietnamese 3 crabs brand)
2 1/2 heads of garlic, coarsely chopped (the garlic disappears into the sauce)
1 TBS whole black pepper
a couple of bay leaves
water to cover meat, and another cup to add later after most of the original liquid has been reduced to a thick sauce.

Combine all ingredients except for the water and marinate from one to three hours. Place ingredients in pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then let cook at a moderate simmer, uncovered, for several hours until the liquid mostly evaporates and the pork begins to brown in the rendered fat. Careful you don't scorch the pan at this stage. When the pork has been browned and lightly crisped, add the cup of water and stir for several minutes to get a nice gravy-like sauce. Remove the fat on the surface and serve the adobo with rice and greens.

Weekend WokkingI'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month.


  1. This looks wonderful! And I just happened to pick up a bottle of coconut vinegar last time I hit up the Asian market. Was going to use it for something else, but now I can try it in this too!

  2. I've never even heard of coconut vinegar. I've used apple cider vinegar in adobo with good results. Thanks for submitting to Weekend Wokking.

  3. I just saw this posted by one of your followers. I've never tried adobo with coconut vinegar before. I'll have to try this one out. Thanks.

  4. hello, I found you through BlazingHotWok and was really excited to try a dish with 2 HEADS OF GARLIC! I followed your recipe (minus the bay leaves) and it was SO salty! I wonder if this has been your experience and is normal, or if maybe I went wrong somewhere.

    any advice?

    otherwise it was great. as a lover of carnitas this was a wonderful twist.

  5. I'm sure any relatively subdued vinegar would work, but I liked the idea of using coconut vinegar with a Filipino dish.

    Abby, this is salty, but the type of fish sauce you use and how much water you add could have made it more so. I find Filipino fish sauce to be saltier tasting than Vietnamese. You might also just try cutting back on how much you include.
    The amazing thing about the garlic is that no one would ever guess how much goes into the dish.

  6. I made this today and my entire family really (really!) enjoyed it. Did the preparation a little different (pressure cooker), but the flavors were great. Used the coconut vinegar and soy, then added the fish sauce to taste toward the end. This is going to be added to the rotation of go-to dishes. Thanks!

  7. dp,
    I'm glad the family liked it. This does seem like a dish that would work with a pressure cooker. Thanks for your feedback.

  8. I have a Filipino sister-in-law that makes her mother's recipe for pork adobo. She uses the palm vinegar and fish sauce(although that sounds good...maybe to taste, at the end like another poster tried). My sister-in-law marinates the pork first, drains it and browns it with the chopped garlic. She then adds the marinade back in stages as you would to rice to make risotto. As it reduces down, she adds more. She adds the last of the marinade and maybe a little water, if necessary, so there is *some* sauce. The meat should be very tender, but hold together when you pick it up with your fingers. Pop a piece in your mouth and follow it with a pinch of sticky rice dipped in the sauce. Mmm-MMM!!!


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