April 4, 2021
I was visiting my dear sister Mia in Rome many years ago and was lucky enough to meet her close friend Gloria. Gloria was born in the Philippines, in Western Visayas, Region 6. She grew up eating this chicken adobo with her family and fondly remembers her father cooking the meal using chickens they raised themselves. Her family also made coconut vinegar from the sap of their very own coconut palm trees. Amazing!
Gloria started cooking the dish herself after she got married, and it holds a special place in her heart. She happily recounts that her husband improved on her family's original version and made it what it is today. Gloria's Chicken Adobo is simplicity at its finest and what my soul yearns for when craving comfort food. Who would think that combining chicken with soy sauce, coconut vinegar, water, sugar, and garlic would yield such an exquisite flavor? If you don't have access to coconut vinegar, white or apple cider will do. You can also sub white, brown or demerara sugar in place of the turbinado in a pinch. I tossed in a few dried Aleppo peppers for some heat and color, which is not authentic to Gloria's recipe; oops! Thank you so much, Gloria, for sharing this with me!
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or sliced thin
8 -10 chicken thighs/legs, bone-in, skin removed (I used all thighs)
salt and pepper for seasoning
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup coconut vinegar
* Aleppo or other red pepper, optional
If you have a pan large enough to fit all the chicken pieces without cramming them together, grab that one. Sauté the garlic in olive oil over low heat. Within 10 or 20 seconds, the garlic will start to percolate, gently bubbling and releasing its flavor into the oil. Cook slowly, steadily, until pale gold. Raise the heat to medium and add the chicken. Season lightly with salt, just a touch because the soy sauce is inherently salty, and pepper. When one side is golden brown, flip the chicken over and repeat the seasoning with salt and pepper. Careful not to scorch the garlic!
Now add the soy sauce and hot pepper (if using) and cover the pan for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sprinkle in the turbinado sugar. Pour the the water into the pan and stir gently. Cover again and bring to a boil.
Once the liquid is boiling, add the coconut vinegar and stir. Partially cover the pot and adjust the heat so that the liquid remains at a low, steady simmer. Start turning and basting the chicken every 5-10 minutes for the next 30 minutes or so, until the liquid has reduced, thickened, and turned a deep, rich brown and the temperature of the chicken is at or near 165° F.
I serve this with steamed white rice and a fresh, green salad or sautéed spinach. Enjoy!