Adobo is one of those dishes that can be either really spectacular or mediocre. But, this hand-me-down recipe becomes extra special due to a few interesting twists and tricks.
The use of wild mushrooms and gizzards (not liver), enhances the classic salty-sour adobo flavor. The addition of oregano further fortifies the taste.
“It’s simple, fast and packed with flavor,” says Bert Torrijos, a true-blue Caviteño. “It’s quite easy to make, yet may be one of the best-tasting adobos to ever cross your lips.”
Indeed, this adobo’s great flavor comes from marinating the meat overnight to allow the flavor to seep into the flesh liberally. The woodsy mushroom produces a savory texture. There’s no need to use liver for depth, just gizzards (balunbalunan) browned to perfection, and lots and lots of garlic.
“I prefer wild mushroom than button mushrooms, which are pretty tough,” says Torrijos. “Wild mushrooms are soft, especially when mixed with vinegar and soy sauce. It melts in your mouth.”
Even if you’re not a gizzard fan, good adobo with gizzard can win over anyone with an aversion to it, says Torrijos. The inclusion of hard-boiled chicken eggs and quail eggs offers a richer, tastier bite. While most of the ingredients in this recipe just go together naturally, another key to good adobo is cooking it slowly until the natural flavors blend harmoniously..
“This adobo has it all—sweet, sour, salty, spicy with tons of texture from chicken, gizzards, mushrooms an eggs,” says 67-year-old Torrijos. “For me, its simplicity in preparation and presentation is part of its delicious appeal. It’s only the ingredients that truly make the difference.”
Torrijos has been cooking this adobo for decades now after he learned it from his late father, who was a Caviteño. His mother, now 94 years old, also hails from General Trias, Cavite.
“I grew up in Cavite and this is the kind of adobo I learned to eat and enjoy while growing up,” he says.
At home in Melbourne, Australia (Torrijos is an Australian citizen), he cooks adobo for his two children and six grandchildren.
“I cook Pinoy food like kare-kare and pork sinigang but it’s my chicken adobo that my grandchildren, Bianca and Bettina, love so much. They love the saucy flavor and the eggs.”
Torrijos is the president and general manager of Jade Vine Restaurant and Executive Inn on Jorge Bocobo corner United Nations Avenue, Manila. He travels every six months to Australia to check on his family and his food consultancy firm.
He joined Jade Vine in 1962 as a busboy when he was only 16 years old. He was a working student throughout college at Lyceum of the Philippines, where he finished Economics. He also studied public relations at the Ateneo de Manila University and special courses on hotel management at Cornell University.
“On my days off, I would try my hand in the kitchen and cook whatever dishes I could think of,” Torrijos recalls.
He rose from the ranks. From bus boy, he was promoted to waiter. When he left Jade Vine, he was already a catering supervisor. He left the restaurant when his wife passed away in 1977.
He later worked for his brother-in-law in a rubber factory in Cavite. However, his real calling and passion was in the hospitality industry, so he decided to go back and worked at the Westin Philippine Plaza (now Sofitel Philippine Plaza) as the first manager of the coffee shop. He also joined other hotels and restaurants, including the Hyatt Terraces Hotel in Baguio City as food and beverage manager.
A job opportunity to work in Australia as a consultant for a restaurant in Geelong, west of Melbourne, came in the 1980s. He eventually became a citizen.
“I’ve lived in Australia for 30 years, but I always miss the Philippines,” Torrijos admits.
Now, he runs the Jade Vine again and goes back and forth to his other home in Australia.
1 k chicken, adobo-cut
¼ c chicken gizzards
Hard-boiled quail eggs
Hard-boiled chicken eggs
Baby wild mushrooms
½ c vinegar
½ c soy sauce
1 head garlic, crushed
2 bay leaf
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp brown sugar, just to enhance the flavor
Toasted garlic for topping
In a bowl, marinate the chicken, gizzard and mushrooms with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and oregano overnight. Then, remove chicken and gizzard from the marinade and fry the meat in a hot pan with oil.
After frying, return the meat into the marinade and cook in low-fire till it boils. Then, simmer for a few more minutes.
Add eggs and sugar. Simmer again. Before serving, sprinkle toasted garlic on top of the adobo.