One of the Asian cuisines that is still somewhat of a mystery to many is Filipino food. But there seems to be an upswing of interest, especially after watching Filipino-American Chef Sheldon Simeon get far in the recent season of “Top Chef.” (I rooted for him because he’s from Hawaii!)
When I was growing up in Hawaii, the Filipino community was large and growing. But my only exposure to the food was limited to lumpia – similar to spring rolls or egg rolls – and chicken adobo. Because I’m not a fan of deep-fried foods, I hardly ate lumpia. But I did eat my fair share of chicken adobo, the chicken dish over rice with soy sauce and vinegar flavors.
I tried to make it at home recently, so I searched for a recipe. Most used the basic ingredients of soy, vinegar, garlic and bay leaves. But whenever I made it, it kept coming out tasting like a version of my “sticky chicken” recipe, which has very similar core ingredients.
I kept experimenting with the proportions of vinegar and sugar, and it still didn’t have that unique flavor that I remember from Hawaii. It was too Japanese like or Chinese like. I finally threw in star anise as well as used light soy sauce, and that finally came close to what I remember eating.
Just to be clear – I am not Filipino, and I’m in no way trying to pass this off as an authentic chicken adobo recipe. Still, it’s my easy-to-make version with a twist that hopefully keeps this classic going strong. Enjoy!
My Chicken Adobo Recipe
Makes 2 to 3 servings
4 to 6 chicken thighs, bone-in (about 1.5 to 2 lbs.)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1-2 star anise
Prep chicken by removing skin and excess fat (I do this mostly to be healthy, but you can leave the skin on if you want). In a shallow dish, mix vinegar, soy sauce and sugar and then place chicken thighs in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, place chicken thighs and marinade in a saucepan or frying pan. Add remaining ingredients: garlic, bay leaves, and star anise. Find a pan that fits the chicken while allowing the sauce to barely cover the thighs. Cover the pan and bring pan to a boil, then immediately reduce to simmer. Cook covered for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Bring heat up to medium and reduce sauce. You might need to skim the sauce first for excess fat. Reduce the sauce for about 20 minutes until the right thickness.
Serve chicken with sauce over steam rice.
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