Chicken Adobo: Baguio Beckoning


As we were hunched over the stove, embroiled in some recent kitchen experiment, my Singapore family’s maid Erlinda noted in passing that it’d been almost two years since she’d eaten her own home-made adobo.

Two years? This seemed like an interminably long time for a Filipina not to be enjoying her national dish, cooked by her own hand.

My mother doesn’t stock vinegar in the kitchen, she explained, which instantly makes brewing a pot of the vinegary pork or chicken stew impossible. And the soy sauce that we Chinese use happens to be just a little too sweet for real adobo, it turns out. 

Now, being a massive lover of the stuff, I immediately decided that Erlinda’s adobo drought needed to end. (This had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that my mouth often starts to water the moment I hear the word “adobo.”)

So, with some instructions from Erlinda on what she needed for her adobo, off we went.

In my Brooklyn kitchen, I make adobo with some frequency. It’s a go-to dish when I crave a savory Asian stew to pour over a plate of rice and slurp up. It also helps that the pork adobo I make has been whipped together so often that I can practically do it with my eyes closed.

I also thought it would be the perfect contribution to January’s Let’s Lunch — a monthly virtual lunch-date and recipe swap a bunch of food bloggers spread out from San Francisco to Paris have been having since an international craving for BLTs took hold one Sunday a few months ago.

With Erlinda’s instructions in hand, I set off for Singapore’s Lucky Plaza, a mall that’s filled with Filipino cafes and mini-marts. 

Back home in Baguio, Erlinda uses two main ingredients for the adobo recipe she gleaned from her Mom: Silver Swan soy sauce and Rose vinegar.

Silver Swan was a cinch but Rose vinegar was nowhere to be found — Erlinda, however, assured me that Datu Puti, the apparent Filipino vinegar brand of choice in Singapore, was a worthy substitute.


With those in hand, we prepped some potatoes, garlic, bay leaves, shallots and peppercorns, and the cooking began.


How was the adobo? Not earth-shaking but tremendously satisfying — a quality we should all be lucky to have in a home-cooked meal. The balance of vinegar and a particularly deeply savory soy sauce with peppercorns, shallots and garlic was lovely. And the dish was incredibly easy to put together.

This recipe, I’d say, is a keeper.

As I type this, Erlinda is up in the air somewhere over the South China Sea, heading back to Baguio for the first time in two years. 

On the other side, she has her family, her husband, her four-year-old son waiting for her. 

And perhaps, too – I hope — a big bowl of her mother’s adobo.


If you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.

And don’t forget to see other Let’s Lunchers’ hearty stews below:

Cathy‘s Pichelsteiner stew at Showfood Chef

Danielle‘s Thai Green Curry at Bon Vivant

Ellise‘s Mom’s Vegetable Beef Stew at Cowgirl Chef

Nicole‘s Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous at Pinch My Salt

Stephanie‘s Hearty Lentil Stew with Smoked Sausage at Cosmic Cowgirl


Erlinda’s Chicken Adobo


  • 200 grams chicken, cut into pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1.5 Tablespoons peppercorns (white or black) — crush half of them and leave the other half whole
  • 2 cups water 
  • 5 Tablespoons Silver Swan soy sauce 
  • 3 Tablespoons Rose or Datu Puti vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (Or more, if you’d like it to be saltier.)

    Bring two cups of water to boil in a large wok, then add shallots, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, soy sauce and vinegar. Bring that to a boil and then add chicken and salt. Cover the mixture, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 25 minutes. Add potatoes, cover and boil for 10 more minutes.

    Serve with rice.

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  • 12 thoughts on “Chicken Adobo: Baguio Beckoning

    1. i once had a travel nurse job back in california where i grew up. this hospital had many filipina nurses who had been recruited to work for various jobs. i learned of this dish then and have never forgotten how delicious it was! now, i will try to redeem myself after my one failed attempt at making it. thank you for that!

    2. Such a sweet story, and so nice of you to whip up this dish for Erlinda! Didn’t realize how easy it was to make, definitely a keeper for weeknight dinners – thanks for sharing!

    3. Nicole — I second that. The variety of stews was neat…a true United Nations of cooking! Stephanie, you’ll have to let me know how your second attempt at adobo turns out…

    4. One of the best things about Adobo, especially if you add a little pork belly to the mix, comes after it’s stewed for a long time and you are down to the ‘leftovers.’ Take the brown bits and sauce — and morsels of chicken, pork belly and potato — and spread it between two slices of fresh bread, with some mayonnaise and you’ve got a sandwich to die for! I learned this from a good friend from the Philippines who has lived in Singapore for many years. Makan! Makan!

    5. Aieee, me too – when I hear adobo, I start to salivate. This looks amazing – I’m going to search the Asian markets in Paris for the Silver Swan and rose vinegar. Let you know how it goes!

    6. Kikkoman soy sauce is a good choice and any white vinegar will do. You can find these in any Asian supermarket. *** When you add the vinegar, don’t mix the mixture yet, wait until it boils. Let the vinegar cook first.

    7. FYI: Every region in the Phil. has a different version of adobo. Tagalog adobo has no potato.
      1) We first boil the chicken ( 1 med. whole size cut in 8 pcs.)in water, vinegar and soy sauce with 5 cloves garlic, black pepper, 2 dry laurel leaves for at least 15-20 minutes.
      2) Strain the meat and keep the sauce.
      3) In a frying pan, heat enough oil for frying the meat until it browns( both sides)In this procedure, the sauce is in the meat and it makes it more delicious.
      4 In a saucepan/stockpot . Put at least 1 tbsp. of oil and saute the chopped garlic then a small size chopped onion. Add the meat and sauce ( about 2-3 cups, depending how much sauce you want)
      5 ) Make a slurry ( cornstarch and water) and add it to the sauce.
      6) adjust the taste of the sauce, check the meat.
      Serve with rice.
      Note: The sauce should be in the right consistency, otherwise it is not the typical Phil.adobo.
      I hope this recipe will give you another version of our chicken adobo ( there is also pork adobo)
      Thanks! :-)

    8. Having grown up in Manila, I’ve never heard of Rose vinegar. Most Filipinos use two brands of soy sauce: Marca PiƱa and Silver Swan. Datu Puti brand also carries soy sauce. I just made adobo this weekend for my hosts while visiting Las Vegas. I love that at Filipino and other Asian stores, there’s a Datu Puti promo pack of soy sauce and vinegar for a really good price. I don’t like using Kikkoman because it can sometimes over power the taste of adobo. And yes, there are many kinds of adobo, and most don’t use potatoes, shallots or onions and tomatoes (Pampanga). The most typical adobo is made with lots of garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, Filipino soy sauce and vinegar, sometimes sugar depending on your preference, and instead of salt, some patis (fish sauce, and it’s better if it’s Filipino fish sauce; but be careful, it’s salty compared to other Asian fish sauces). Thanks, Cheryl. Did I miss you at UNITY?

      • Fascinating — how much fish sauce would you add? I’m going to have to look for it! As well as Marca Pina soy sauce. I love trying new kinds of soy sauce. Yes, alas, I couldn’t make it to UNITY this year — missing my first AAJA convention since 1994! Will be there for sure next year, though! I’ll have to make adobo for you when you come!

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