NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Adobo, often considered the national dish of the Philippines, is a method of stewing meat in vinegar. The word “adobo” itself is linked to a Spanish method of preserving raw meat by immersing it in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and paprika. When the Spanish observed an indigenous Philippine cooking method involving vinegar in the 16th century, they referred to it as adobo, and the name stuck. Interestingly, the original Filipino name for this dish is no longer known.
2-3 lbs pork belly, well-marbled pork shoulder, or a combination of the two
1/3 cup wheat-free tamari
10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp black peppercorns
5 bay leaves
2/3 cup vinegar (cane vinegar preferred)
1 cup water
2 tsp coconut oil
For a fully authentic taste, Datu Puti cane vinegar is considered the standard vinegar for making adobo, but white vinegar can be used in a pinch.
Cut the pork belly into 1″ chunks.
Combine the pork belly, tamari, garlic, and peppercorns and marinade for at least one hour, but up to two hours.
Warm a skillet on medium heat and add the pork, sautéing for five to seven minutes, until the pork is mostly browned.
Add the bay leaves, vinegar, and water, and mix around. Bring to a simmer and then cover, reducing the heat to low, and simmer for one hour. One trick I’ve heard is that you’re never supposed to remove the lid during this hour of cooking, or the sauce will turn sour.
After an hour the pork and sauce should look pretty dang good, but there’s still a little work to be done before we can move on.
Remove the pork pieces and set aside, then pour out the liquid into a fat separator and set aside (should be about 2 cups of liquid).
Reheat your skillet on medium heat, adding the coconut oil to warm at the same time. Return the pork pieces to the skillet and sauté on medium heat for about ten minutes, until the pieces become crispy on the outside and a good amount of the pork belly’s fat has been rendered. Remove the pieces and set them aside.
Here’s what the pieces should look like after removing them from the pan. Resist the urge to devour them immediately! Okay, you can eat a couple of them.
Add the sauce to the pan and simmer on medium heat, reducing it to about one cup. Should take about five minutes. Be sure to scrape up the remaining pork pieces as you reduce the sauce.
Pour the sauce over the pieces and serve immediately.