Friday, June 17, 2011

Around the World in 80 Dishes: The Philippines

It has been a while since my last stop on my culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes.  The passage of time is due to two factors.  First, I usually spend a lot of time researching each challenge to make sure that the dish that I am making is authentic and that the recipe I use comes as close as possible to what cooks in the particular country would do to make the dish.  This research is important, because many of my prior challenges -- such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Mongolia -- are some of the most viewed posts on my blog.  Accordingly, I try to take the time to research the dish to make sure that it is at least representative of the country's cuisine, along with the appetizers, side dishes and, in some cases, beverages that I make to go along with that meal.  Second, I have not had the time in recent weeks to do the required research. 

Recently, I set aside time to get myself back on track.  I now find myself facing the challenge of preparing a main course from the Philippines.   Like most countries, the cuisine of the Philippines is strongly influenced by its history and its geography.  With respect to the former, the centuries of Spanish colonization has left its imprint on Filipino cuisine.  This influence is most apparent with is often referred to as the "national dish" of the Philippines ... Chicken Adobo or Adobong Manok.  The word "adobo" means marinade in Spanish, but the marinade used Adobong Manok is uniquely Filipino.  As for the geography, the proximity of the Philippines to China has resulted in a substantial Chinese population emigrating from the continent to the Filipino islands.  The influence of the Chinese is perhaps most evident in some of the noodle dishes served in the Philippines.   

For this challenge, I have decided to prepare Adobong Manok, which I served with some jasmine rice. This main dish satisfies the challenge, and, it also hearkens to the Spanish influences in Filipino cuisine.  I also decided to make an appetizer, Tahong Ng Sabaw or Green Mussel Soup, which pays tribute to the Asian influences on the Philippines and its food. 

The green mussel (Perna Viridis) is just that ... a mussel with a green shell.  Green mussels were cultivated in Asia, but are now found around the world.  Well, green mussels are found in many parts of the world, except around where I live.  Consequently, I used Prince Edward Island mussels, known for their black shells, to make this dish.  The Asian influences are readily apparent in the use of fish sauce, a popular condiment in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.  The mussels can be served with jasmine rice, although I did not do that because I was going to have rice with the main course.

Recipe adapted from All Fish Seafood
Serves 2-3

1 1/2 pounds of fresh mussels, cleaned
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
3 cups of water
2 handfuls of fresh Spinach, chiffonade
Ground black pepper, to taste

1. Saute the vegetablesHeat the oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Saute and stir occasionally until the onion is translucent and the ingredients are fragrant, which should take about five minutes.

2.  Add the tomatoes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to saute for about two minutes.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Make the soup.  Add the water and fish sauce.  Bring the liquid to a boil.

4.  Steam the mussels.  Add the mussels.  Add enough water (if necessary)  When the mussels have opened, they are done.

5.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Add the spinach, stir and season with ground black pepper and, if you so desire, a little more fish sauce.  


Chicken Adobo or Adobong Manok is a uniquely Filipino dish. The "adobo" or marinade consists of white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar, although plain white vinegar could be used as well), soy sauce, garlic, and bay leaves. After a stint in the marinade, usually between one to four hours, the chicken is then cooked in the marinade until tender. The typical preparation, based upon my research, would then be to remove the chicken and brown it in a separate pan, while the marinade cooks down into a sauce. The browned chicken is then returned to the sauce and is ready to serve.

Adapted from Whats4Eats
Serves 3-4

2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
3/4 cup of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, diced
1-2 bay leaves
6-8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1. Marinate the chicken.  Add the chicken pieces, vinegar, soy sauce, onion, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt to a large, non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for one to four hours to marinate.

2.  Cook the chicken.  Place the chicken and its marinade in a large pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for thirty to forty-five minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  Add water as necessary to keep the chicken from drying out.

3.  Brown the chicken.  Remove the chicken from its sauce, reserving the sauce, and pat dry.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high flame and saute the chicken pieces to brown them.  Remove from heat and set aside.

4.  Reduce the sauce.  Bring the remaining sauce to a boil over medium flame and cook until somewhat reduced and thickened.

5.  Add the chicken to the sauce.  Toss the browned chicken pieces with the reduced sauce and serve with jasmine rice. 

*     *     *

Overall, this was a good challenge to get back into the swing of the Around the World in 80 Dishes.  The Tahong Ng Sabaw turned out perfectly, although the mussels available to me were on the small side.  The key to the dish is that, after the mussels are put into the pot, you add just enough water to barely cover the mussels.  The mussels I used were so small that no additional water was necessary.  The Adobong Manok turned out very well and it was an interesting introduction to Filipino food.  The vinegar and soy sauce flavors of the sauce were actually delicious and did penetrate the chicken well.  I think the next time I make this dish I will let the sauce cook down a little more.

After a successful challenge in The Philippines, I now turn to planning the next challenge.  Until next time ... 


For more about the influences on Filipino food, check out this website.

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