If the Philippines has a National dish, that would be Adodo. It is the most popular and well loved comfort food of all. Every Filipino family has their own recipe and way of cooking adobo. The basic ingredients for this dish are – chicken or pork or a combination of both, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns and dry laurel leaf. The ratio of soy sauce and vinegar really depends on one’s personal taste and preference. Some like it cooked a bit dry and some with more sauce.
You can get creative by adding other ingredients like mushrooms which is my personal favorite, hard boiled egg and potatoes. The possibilities are endless.
Just combine all the ingredients in a pot and simmer until meat is tender. You can strain the meat from the sauce and fry till golden brown. You then return the sauce to the pan and cook till a bit thickened. This step is optional but will give the dish an added depth of flavor.
I made pork adobo with mushrooms for last Thursday’s dinner. We almost always eat this with rice.
Beef Nilaga reminds me of the boiled “corned beef and cabbage” usually served during St. Patrick’s Day. Beef nilaga for me is the easiest Filipino dish you can prepare. It’s just boiling your choice of meat and adding vegetables.
For this recipe I used “kalitiran” (top blade) for the cut of meat. You may also use beef brisket or shank as a substitute.
Start by boiling your meat with onions and ground pepper (whole peppercorns are preferable) until tender. Don’t forget to skim and remove the scum from the broth as it boils. Season with salt or fish sauce, the most commonly used Filipino seasoning. This is similar to the Thai “nam pla” or Vietnamese “nuoc mam”. Just a word of warning for those unfamiliar with it, this has a very strong and pungent smell. This will also give “umami” flavor to your soup.
Add your choice of vegetables, for this I made use of bok choy (chinese greens), carrots and cucumber. As always I make do with what I have on hand. Some purist may cringe at the idea of adding cucumber to nilaga. My family has always used cucumber because it not only enhances the flavor of the broth but gives it a distinct fragrance. We also sometimes add squash for it renders sweetness to the dish.
The commonly used vegetables in making nilaga are potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Hence, it’s similarity to the boiled “corned beef and cabbage”. Since moving to the Northeast I’ve learned to substitute ingredients to what we have locally. It not only makes for an interesting dish but challenges your creativity as well.
My Beef Nilaga
Afritada is a Filipino tomato based stew. I believe this is one of the many Spanish influenced dishes that we have. It is meat (pork and chicken are commonly used) braised in tomatoes, onions, garlic with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. Tomato paste is then added with broth or water. Lola (my maternal grandmother) does not like to use tomato sauce as she finds it too sour. Bay leaf, salt and pepper are used to season. My family always include vinegar in our “afritada” recipe, I remember my mom and lola saying that this is what makes it different from “Menudo“.
Each family in the Philippines usually have their own recipe or way of making this dish. My recipe may differ from others but this is what makes Filipino cooking interesting.
The trinity of Filipino cooking – garlic, onions and tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients I used are potatoes, carrots and red bell pepper.
Meat of choice, you may use chicken or beef.
Dinner is served, pork afritada over rice.
This is an updated version of this recipe. I added some Spanish chorizo after placing the carrots and potatoes in the simmering stew to give the dish added flavor.