Cheater's Chicken Adobo

Filipino Chicken Adobo
Chicken Adobo, white rice and simple green beans

If you are Filipino, know a Filipino, or know anything about the Philippines, you've heard of Chicken Adobo. As the unofficial national dish, it is traditionally any protein (I've seen chicken and pork used most commonly) cooked in a vinegar and garlic based sauce. Every Filipino has their own version, and even regionally across the Philippines, it is made in a variety of ways.

I've mentioned before that my mom is Filipino, and growing up, the Adobo I came to know and love was more like a vinegar/soy chicken stew. A whole, bone-in chicken, was tossed in a big pot with water, garlic, onions, black peppercorns, soy sauce, bay leaves and plain white vinegar, then cooked until the chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and the sauce was reduced to a tangy, salty goodness, perfect over white rice. There were no thickeners, no frying or grilling (both common Filipino restaurant techniques for Adobo), just a delicious vinegary chicken. To this day, it's the procedure I use for chicken adobo when I make it at home. I usually reduce the quatity to just half a chicken, since it is just my hubby and me, but otherwise, the dish has remained unchanged. Until tonight...

Tonight, I came home with the yearning for Chicken Adobo, but I was missing some key ingredients. First, I didn't have bone-in, skin-on chicken, just a sad boneless, skinless chicken breast and thigh. I had no distilled white vinegar on hand, and realized all too late that I was out of both garlic and whole peppercorns.

Nevertheless, I wanted chicken adobo, so I figured it was time to improvise. So I started with a restaurant technique and sauteed my chicken in a little oil, to get the ball rolling.

1 breast and thigh, each cut in half, and browned on both sides.
Once the chicken was brown, I pulled it out of the pan and added the onions to the heat to sweat. Unfortunately, the pan was a little dry, so I added a little Chinese Shaoxing wine to the pan to deglaze.

Once the onions started softening, I added the soy sauce (1/2 cup) and vinegar (1/2 cup). Being out of white vinegar, I substituted a mixture of cider vinegar and rice vinegar. I had no garlic or whole peppercorns, but I did have a bay leaf, so I added that and an ample amount of ground black pepper. I let that come to a bubble and added my chicken back in to finish cooking all the way through.


When I tasted the sauce, it seemed flat, so I added a little fish sauce for added depth then let it cook until the sauce reduced. When it was as close as I could get, I served it over steamed rice and simple, roasted green beans.

What I ended up making was tasty enough, and the vinegar/soy sauce mixture met my craving, but overall the dish was a disappointment. I guess when you are raised eating a specific dish a specific way, you are bound to be disappointed when you cheat. I am certain that having the correct ingredients will give me the authentic flavor I was missing tonight. The cider/rice vinegar didn't have the punch of plain white vinegar, and the lack of garlic and peppercorns was missed sorely. I'm also certain that using the bone-in, skin-on chicken gives a much richer flavor, plus a silkiness to the sauce that was missing tonight as well.

Next time I make "real" chicken adobo, I'll be sure to measure my ingredients (I usually eyeball ingredients like I did tonight) and post the recipe. 

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