In cooking Adobong Alimango, Mila Aquende Banzon shares the secret of its finger-licking sauce—garlic, lots and lots of garlic.
She uses about six to seven bulbs of garlic for every two to three large pieces of crabs.
The heady aroma and taste of sweet garlic, plus the salty-than-sour flavor of her adobo, seep nicely into the tender crab meat. The marinated aligue (crab fat) makes the adobo extra-luscious.
Banzon’s version contains no vinegar, pepper or bay leaf, only calamansi juice and fish sauce (patis) to seal the deal.
“This adobo is so easy to cook,” says Banzon, 62. “You’re done in 15 minutes or less.”
Adobong Alimango, one of Banzon’s kitchen specialties, has never failed to stimulate her family’s appetite. They enjoy their adobo with mounds of rice gently smothered with adobo sauce. No need for butter to add richness to the dish. The sharp sourness of the calamansi juice and the saltiness of fish sauce in the adobo are enough.
The aligue is extracted from the crab, then marinated for a few minutes in calamansi juice and fish sauce. The rest of the crab is sautéed in garlic.
She says it’s best to get mud crabs, still alive right up to when they’re cooked. Pick those that feel heavy. Crabs should smell briny fresh; they should look bright and clean.
Cooking for the family
Banzon has been serving Adobong Alimango for years now, even passing on the recipe to the house help.
“I learned the recipe from a good friend,” she says. “Every time we have special occasions in the house, I would prepare it. These days, it’s my long-time kasambahay Saling who cooks it for the family.”
Banzon hails from Albay, but she’s one Bicolano who’s not into spicy food. She doesn’t like dishes with gata (coconut milk) as well.
“My friends and relatives would tease me about it, but I just prefer simple home-cooked Pinoy meals like sinigang for my family,” she explains.
She used to attend baking and cooking classes, where she learned more Filipino and Chinese dishes.
“I enjoyed those things because I enjoyed the company of friends,” Banzon recalls.
Apart from her crabs, the family likes her potato salad and grilled seafood and meat dishes.
These days, Banzon is busy as a bee running the family businesses in Bataan. She used to run a pawnshop before joining her husband, Oscar, in the family construction business (Abesco), and is now running the family’s own hotel, Crown Royale Hotel (Capitol Drive, San Jose, Balanga, Bataan), and resort, La Vista Balanga Inland Resort (Barangay Central Roman Superhighway, Balanga, Bataan).
They also recently acquired the franchise for a Chinese restaurant, a spa and a salon.
Banzon has four children, who all help out in the businesses—Maria Carmela (also a pediatrician); Candice Anne (chef and head of food and beverage); Bryan Joseph (Abesco company); and Crizelda Marie (handles the hotel room division). She has five grandchildren.
When her kids were growing up, Banzon would juggle her time between the family business and domestic life.
“Good thing, our office was just across our house so I could check on my kids every now and then,” she says. “When you have a family, you really need to know how to cook. Funny, none of my kids (except for my chef daughter), who all have their own family now, knows how to cook.”
Still, the family’s foremost bonding moment is eating.
“My family loves to eat. We enjoy eating as much as we enjoy traveling altogether,” says Banzon.
Banzon shares her recipe for Adobong Alimango and Bataan’s version of Chicken Pork Adobo, which is a bit sweeter than usual.
Adobong Alimango (Stewed Mud Crabs)
Clean crabs thoroughly. Cut crabs in half. Remove the crab fat (aligue) and set aside. Marinate fat in calamansi juice and fish sauce. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and sauté garlic until brown. Remove garlic from pan and set aside. Add crabs from the same pan and cook until almost reddish in color. Set aside.
Quickly sauté the reserved crab fat with calamansi juice and water. Blend in the fried crabs. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat until crabs are fully cooked. Garnish with fried garlic. Served with garlic rice.
Bataan Chicken-Pork Adobo
Sauté garlic and onion in cooking oil. Add chicken, pork and soy sauce. Add vinegar and water. Allow to boil. Add sugar and ground pepper. Add laurel leaves. Simmer and season to taste.
Add cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Garnish with sliced onions.
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