It was in 1975 that food icon Glenda Barretto introduced the Crispy Adobo Flakes. Since then this toasted adobo has been widely copied in many restaurants and catering businesses.
It’s been a smash because the meat is surprisingly crunched up, ultra crispy and extra flaky. It instantly crumbles and almost melts in the mouth with each bite. The tasty and dark bits tickle the palate with a play of subtle sour-salty and garlicky flavors. The brittle, finger-lickin’ goodness always whets one’s appetite.
“We, Filipinos, love everything that’s malutong (crispy),” said Barretto, the doyenne of Philippine cuisine.
“I started serving these adobo flakes in my catering way back in the ’70s, and I’m still serving them in my restaurant (Via Mare’s chain of restaurants).”
Initially, Barretto would make the crispy flakes from leftover adobo at home. Her dad, Pedro Rosales, had always wanted his food crispy and crunchy. So, Barretto would gather the leftover adobo, shred and flake by hand the cooked meat and fry it till crisp and crumbly.
On the dining table, she would pair the flakes with slices of tomatoes, onions, salted egg and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
For her food business, of course, Barretto would make fresh batches of adobo before preparing them into flakes.
Tedious but worth it
Barretto whips up crispy adobo flakes using pork, chicken, fish and beef.
“Basically, they all have the same cooking procedure,” she said. “But the beef takes longer to prepare and cook. It requires a lot of time to soften the meat and make it tender.” The beef flakes are darker compared to pork and chicken. The fish flakes look more spongy.
Barretto cooks crispy beef adobo flakes only by special request when she caters.
There are different ways in making adobo flakes. Other people cook it by mashing or pressing the meat on the pan to loosen it up a bit. The slightly shredded meat is then stored in the freezer overnight and fried frozen next day. The meat is fried until crispy and sticky, while constantly scraping the bottom of the pan to break up the sticking browned bits and pieces.
Barretto’s style is quite interesting and more manageable, but still takes some patience to work on the flakes.
After slow-cooking the adobo (with the usual vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorn), she puts small quantities of meat in a plastic bag and gently presses it to loosen the meat. From there, Barretto said, it’s easy to debone and flake the flesh by hand.
With a bit of oil, she fries the meat in low-fire till browned and toasted.
“The secret to a more flavorful adobo taste is that after flaking the meat, you soak it in the sauce so that it absorbs all the seasonings and that garlicky flavor,” she said, “then strain before frying.”
“It would be nice if you flake it uniformly to look presentable and palatable,” she added.
Apart from being a main course, the adobo flakes may also be used as toppings for salads and congee, and as sidings for Kare-Kare, Seafood Sinigang, etc.
Barretto considers adobo and sinigang as the national dishes.
“But, if I were to choose one, I’d pick adobo as our national dish,” she said.
Crispy Chicken Adobo Flakes
1.2 k fresh chicken
125 ml vinegar
50 ml soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp sea salt
2 pcs bay leaves
1 tsp crushed peppercorns
250 ml water
Oil for frying
To make adobo, cut the chicken into serving-size pieces and place in a casserole. Add remaining ingredients, apart from the oil, together with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, then remove chicken and strain the stock.
In a frying pan, brown the chicken pieces in hot oil until crispy on all sides, then drain on absorbent paper and transfer to a platter. Reheat the stock and reduce to a thick, flowing consistency, then pour over the chicken and serve immediately.
To make Crispy Adobo Flakes, place adobo meat in a plastic bag and gently press the meat by hand. Then debone the chicken and flake its flesh. Drizzle with adobo sauce. Transfer to a baking tray and spread evenly, then let stand for at least one hour. Drain. Fry in a wok with very little oil over low heat, stirring continuously for 30-45 minutes or until chicken meat is dry, brown and crisp.