(Chicago) -  Almost every Filipino household brags about their specialty adobo dish. Almost every region in the Philippines claims to hold the most authentic version of adobo. I heard at one point the government commissioned a group of veritable Filipino chefs to standardize the recipes of the most popular Filipino dishes, including adobo of course, to boost its standing against the other world cuisines. Whatever success or failure it attained, I never heard about that initiative again.

Finding or coming up with a standard recipe for Philippine adobo, I believe, are lame efforts and total waste of time. With the hundreds of recipes around, not counting your own ones when you play around in the kitchen, there is no way, not in this lifetime nor our kids and their kids’ existence, that we will be able to produce one truly deeply authentic Pinoy adobo.  I think that the golden recipe is not missing link in this whole puzzle. It’s not the ingredients, not the ratio of vinegar to soy sauce and not the duration of stewing.

Then what is? As cliché as it may sound, the essence of the dish is the most of important.

This version of adobo is what Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan served in their Filipino restaurant in New York. To me, this is the best adobo I had so far. I made a little adjustment, not because there’s something wrong with the dish, but to make use of the available ingredients and tools I have in my kitchen. This is not the typical adobo I used to eat when I was growing up. But the full essence of Filipino adobo is right there; it is a delicate balance of salty, tangy and sweet in one easy-to-prepare dish.

Bring me some rice, please. :)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups rice vinegar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 whole dried Guajillo chili (or 3 whole siling labuyo in the original recipe)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 lbs chicken thighs (or whole chicken, quartered and cut into pieces)

Directions:

In a large resealable bag or non-reactive bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Put the chicken with marinade in a large casserole or Dutch oven over high heat. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer until chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Preheat broiler on high. Transfer the chicken to baking sheet with skin side facing up and broil for about 5-7 minutes until skin get color and crisp. If you don’t have an oven, you can pan fry the skin side of the chicken using another pan on high heat. Put enough oil to get a good crisp.

While chicken is broiling, raise the heat to medium-high and reduce the sauce until it is the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and chilis. Return the chicken to the sauce and cook until just warmed through.