She’s been called Little Miss Adobo in her family, because every single day while growing up she would eat adobo—and never really got tired of it.
Now, at age 25, Karla Marina Reyes still enjoys eating adobo and, in fact, whips up her own gourmet version of this quintessential dish.
It’s called Adobo-Breaded Lamb with Adobo Mayo Sauce and served with Adobo Risotto.
Karla even entered this dish in a recent adobo-cooking competition called Adobolympics, and ended up third overall winner.
“The competition came as a surprise,” says Karla, daughter of respected food caterer Millie Reyes and great granddaughter of Doña Engracia “Aling Asiang” Reyes of the legendary Aristocrat restaurant on Roxas Boulevard, Manila.
“It was actually my uncle Raymund Reyes (chair of Aristocrat) who signed up for the cook-off. But he didn’t realize he was going on a family cruise on competition day, so he got me to compete,” says Reyes.
There were about 34 team applicants for the cook-off, but the organizers trimmed them down to 12, which included Karla and her two assistants. They called themselves Team Republika.
It was Reyes’ first time to join a competition, and “it was nerve-wracking but fun,” she adds.
She thought of a way to make adobo very different and more exciting, using a sponsored ingredient, which was lamb.
Instead of cooking the meat in an adobo sauce, Karla made it breaded with adobo marination, and drizzled with adobo mayo sauce. She also made a side dish of risotto blended with adobo sauce and garlic flakes. It was a complete meal with lots of texture, color, flavor, and gustatory experience.
The end result was delicious, with the lamb a bit crunchy to the bite, and with no gamey smell or aftertaste.
With her family’s culinary influence, it’s no surprise the young Karla has imbibed the love for cooking and good food.
After finishing Business Management, majoring in Entrepreneurship from De La Salle University, and a course on Professional Events Management from College of Saint Benilde, Karla took up Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York.
“When I was a kid, I really wanted to go to where my mom went to school (Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland),” Karla says. “We went to Europe when I was in my teens to check out the rates. It turned out my mom’s life savings was only equivalent to one semester there, plus living expenses. We ditched the idea.”
“And since I had a college plan in Manila, my mom and lolo Joe Reyes said to finish college here first, and study abroad afterward. That’s what I did.”
When she got back from New York equipped with knowledge and skills, she then joined her mom Millie in running their catering business and restaurant, The Plaza, on the 4th Level of Rustan’s Makati.
Karla takes charge of product development and the restaurant menu. She also handles promotion for The Plaza’s premium baked ham and Go Gourmet food-to-go dishes.
She put up her own business called Swizzle Bar, a mobile bar serving mocktails and alcoholic beverage to parties and events.
Her mom, having been in the food business for over four decades, is now taking it easy and slowly passing on the work to her unica hija.
“My mom has worked so hard for the company. Now it’s a partnership. She conceptualizes, I implement,” states Karla.
For her lamb adobo recipe, she either uses powdered adobo mix, available in major supermarkets, or sauce from the basic chicken-pork adobo recipe (1/4 k chicken, 100 g pork, 1 c vinegar, ½ c soy sauce, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt to taste, and garlic cloves to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour).
For the adobo risotto, the chicken is drained, shredded and cooked with the risotto. Adobo sauce is added in while risotto is cooking.
4 lamb chops
½ c powdered adobo mix (available in supermarkets)
½ c breadcrumbs
¼ c chopped parsley
¼ c minced garlic
1 c flour
2 pcs eggs
½ c oil for frying
Rub lamb chops with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine adobo mix, breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Dredge each chop with flour, then dip in egg mixture until well-coated and roll in adobo mix. Shake off excess crumbs. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry breaded chops for about 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.
1 pc chicken breast
1 c soy sauce
1 c vinegar
3 c water
3 pcs minced garlic
6 pcs peppercorn
2 pcs bay leaves
2 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp oil
1 c adobo sauce
In a medium sauce pan, heat oil then sauté garlic. Add chicken to the pan. Then add water, soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorn and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or when meat is tender. Remove chicken from the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine adobo sauce and mayonnaise, mix until well-blended.
½ c arborio rice
1 c water
½ c adobo sauce
100 g chicken adobo, shredded
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ c oil
¼ c green and red bell pepper, diced
Put in water and rice in a nonstick pan on low heat and keep stirring. Deep fry garlic clove slices in oil in a small pan and set aside for garnish. When mixture thickens, slowly add in adobo sauce. Add water and adobo sauce alternately if rice is still not cooked. When cooked, add shredded chicken. Sprinkle green and red bell pepper, and garlic flakes on top.