“The real adobo never used ‘toyo’ (soy sauce). And I think it is not just the Visayan version,” was the quick reply from my cousin Manay Lyn who shared this White Adobo recipe. Just like the TV game show, I have my own lifelines when it comes to asking for cooking advice . Most of my resources are my family – my circle of cousins are a big help. And unlike the television show, I have a free pass to any cooking question. Thank goodness for the internet and instant forms of communications. I can text questions like this “Is it true the Visayan adobo does not use soy sauce, thus yours is the ‘White Adobo’?”
The most distinct thing was that the adobo she cooked was white, there was no trace of soy sauce and yet it was divine. A few years ago, at my cousin’s beach house here on the east coast, several of us were gathered together for a weekend reunion. My cousin, Manay Lyn Besa Gamboa (‘Manay’ is used to address an older female relative in the Philippines, as a form of respect) was visiting the States from Silay City, Philippines. As we sat around the family dinner table, pouring wine, telling stories, and eating, Manay Lyn occasionally got up from her seat and went to the kitchen stove to the simmering pot. She gave the White Adobo a few stirs, sniffed at the aromatic garlicky-vinegar vapors floating from the pot and exclaimed “Malapit na itong maluto!” (This won’t take long, it will cook soon).
I cooked white adobo for the family. It was a chicken stew pure and simple. It needed a slow simmer for the chicken pieces to get tender, and the ‘adobo’ flavors to set. Adobo has been hailed as the Philippines’ national dish. What makes this one different? The absence of soy sauce makes it unique, but it doesn’t make it any less irresistible. White adobo is just as magnificent in its simplicity and the hard to resist garlic-vinegar flavors. Once cooked till it nearly falls off the bone, the chicken stew has a radiant glistening sheen and very refreshing light flavors. The enormous amount of garlic cooked in the vinegar broth makes this adobo utterly amazing on boiled steaming rice.
For years, my sons were accustomed to seeing regular Filipino Adobo cooked with soy sauce. When I served this White Adobo on the table, I told them why it was so :
“Adobo, which foreigners consider the quintessential Philippine dish, since it is found in all homes, Filipino restaurants at home and abroad, and even in hotels as the token Philippine dish, is based on sour-stewing too : in vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorn. Soy sauce is a latter-day addition.”(From “Tikim” by Doreen G. Fernandez)
My cousin Lyn was right. White adobo was not just unique to the Visayas, the southern provinces of the Philippines. I found recipes of white adobo, too from the Pampanga region, which is north of Manila (the country’s capital). Looking through my stack of cookbooks, I found a Kapampangan version, from the Pampanga culinary queen of heirloom cooking, Atching Lillian Borromeo, whom I met last year. In her cookbook’s recipe, there was absolutely no trace of soy sauce (Filipinos call it ‘toyo’). Best of all, the recipe was simple, easy and just cooked by itself once let alone to simmer.
Sometimes, the simplest recipes that have been passed on for generations are arguably the best!
Adobong Puti, the Arobung Maputi - Filipino Old Style White Adobo
- 3 pounds chicken, bone-in, skin-on cut in serving pieces
- 1 cup white cane vinegar or Filipino Sukang Maasim or use distilled white vinegar
- 4 to 5 cups water enough to cover the chicken
- 8 to 10 cloves garlic about 1 head; chopped, minced
- 3 pieces bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns freshly crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- boiled rice for serving
To cook on the stove-top:
- In a large, deep stockpot, over medium-high heat, combine the ingredients together: Chicken, vinegar, water, salt, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns, ground black pepper powder. Do not stir yet. Do not cover it.Let the mixture come to a full boil.
- After about 10 minutes, lower heat to a slow simmer. Stir just a little, enough to let the ingredients blend.Continue to simmer over medium to low heat till chicken is tender, for about 2 hours. The sauce will reduce to a thick, translucent gravy by the time the chicken is completely cooked. Serve warm with rice.
To cook in the Instant Pot:
- Combine all the ingredients in the inside pot: The chicken, vinegar, water, salt, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns, ground black pepper powder. Cover and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing.Press Manual and cook on High Pressure for 35 minutes.When buzzer sounds to announce cooking is done, do a Natural Release. When the float pin drops, it is safe to unlock the lid. Open lid carefully. Use a long cooking spoon or ladle to remove the chicken and sauce. Arrange in a serving platter. Serve warm with rice.
To cook in the Slow Cooker:
- Combine all the ingredients inside the slow cooker: Chicken, vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, salt, black peppercorns, ground black pepper powder.Cover and set on High. Cook in the slow cooker for 6 hours. At the end of cooking, use a long cooking spoon to take out the chicken and the sauce which would have reduced.Serve warm with rice.
Notes on the Instant Pot:
- For safety precautions, use only accessories recommended for the Instant Pot or multicooker - like metal or silicone. Do not use glassware. Please read the product manual for complete safety instructions.
Nutrition Notes: The nutrition information is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
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Disclosure: Instant Pot is the brand name of a multi-cooker that cooks in high and low pressure. I was not paid by the Instant Pot company to mention the product or brand nor endorse it. This is not an ad. My views and opinions are my own.