She doesn’t miss a week without cooking adobo in the house. Whether it’s adobo with coconut milk or adobo with ketchup or adobo flakes or twice-cooked adobo, Offie Quiazon Benavides makes sure she serves the family’s comfort food on a regular basis.
“My children love my adobo,” says 60-year-old Benavides, who has four kids and three grandkids. “And, they would tell me if they want either wet or dry adobo.”
If it’s wet adobo, Benavides simply whips up a regular adobo consisting of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorn. She first boils all the ingredients in a pan before dropping in the pork or chicken without mixing the dish, to allow the vinegar to cook through thoroughly.
She then removes the sauce from the pan. Coconut milk is mixed with the sauce before it is poured over the meat and allowed to simmer. The sauce turns out thicker and creamier, perfect with a mound of rice on the plate.
Sometimes, she adds chopped siling labuyo to give the dish that extra kick.
If it’s dry, Benavides prepares a regular adobo, then separates the meat from the sauce. The meat is left to dry first and then deeply fried. The adobo sauce is served on the side with adobo rice.
Benavides usually cooks about three kilos of pork and chicken for her adobo. She pairs her adobo with boiled tomato and fiddlehead fern salad.
Crispy and crunchy
When she or her family is in the mood for something really dry and fried, Benavides dishes out her all-time favorite adobo flakes.
“I use chicken instead of pork, because pork meat comes out too dark when you deep-fry it,” she explains.
Benavides uses chicken breast to make her flakes. She cooks the adobo with the chicken breast, takes out the meat and shreds it thinly, adds a bit of salt because chicken is quite bland, and deep-fries it. She serves the adobo sauce on the side.
Most of Benavides’ adobo recipes were passed on to her by her mom, Bella, now 84 years old.
“It was my mom who taught me my first adobo when I was already an adult,” says Benavides. “She’s known for her gourmet food and cooking among family and friends. But, she has no formal training. In fact, my mom taught me how to cook via the telephone!”
Benavides, whose mom is from Nueva Ecija and whose father is from Pampanga, got married at 20. When she became pregnant with her first child and had nothing else to do at home, she would call her mother on the phone.
“I asked her to teach me how to cook because I was bored and I had to serve something when my husband came home,” she says.
Aside from adobo, she learned to cook sinigang, dinuguan, pakbet and other Pinoy dishes. Eventually, her kitchen repertoire grew bigger and better. She now serves her family and friends her Filipino, Thai, Japanese and Italian cooking, which she has mastered through the years from recipe books, cooking demos on TV and lessons from culinary expert Beth Romualdez.
She cooks salmon head in Japanese sauce, salmon fillet with oyster sauce, tenderloin steak, salmon salad, salmon steak and bacalao.
She can also serve Oriental and Continental cuisines. A lot of Italian dishes are also in her specialty list. She concocts very light sauces for pasta. Her Pasta Vongole simply uses clams, olive oil, herbs and other spices. It’s a meal that is light enough for a second serving.
She can also whip up puttanesca and pasta using an olive-paste sauce. The latter she does by osterizing black olives, capers, olive oil, garlic, basil and parsley into a thick paste. Another interesting Italian entrée is her Osso Buco, a dish of tender veal shanks with a heavy sauce of Italian tomatoes, olive oil, parsley and loads of chopped carrots, garlic and celery. The sauce can be a viand in itself.
More ‘adobo’ recipes
Her interest in discovering new dishes never stops. A few years ago, Benavides learned to cook adobo with ketchup.
“I learned it from my uncle in the US,” says Benavides, who now runs her own restaurant and catering business, O Kitchen (188 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, QC).
“He would first make regular adobo, put ketchup and then bake it. It’s really delicious and very tasty. The color is orangey because of the tomato ketchup. It’s tangier and a bit sour. The sauce is really thick.”
Even with her busy schedule, Benavides makes it a point to cook the family meal every day, especially adobo.
“After I cook adobo, I cool it first, store in plastic containers and keep it in the ref,” she says. “If my husband or children have a craving for it and I’m not at home, they just take it out and reheat it.”
In a deep pan, boil together water, vinegar, garlic, peppercorn, bay leaf and soy sauce. Then add pork. Don’t mix. When pork is tender, pour the gata. Mix. Add pandan leaves for extra aroma. Serve warm.
In a pan, boil together water, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and peppercorn. Add chicken breast and cook for a few minutes. Take out chicken and let it cool. Then flake meat into thin strips. Season with salt. Deep-fry meat in hot oil. Strain meat. Serve adobo flakes with scrambled egg and veggies.
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PHOTOS BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ