It is called the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. But ask any Filipino heritage how to make their beloved chicken coop, and give you all the other answers.
My Filipino mother taught me how to make a tangy, delicious chicken pickle, passing me the recipe her mother taught her. So naturally I thought hers was the one true way. Then I realized that everyone was doing a little different, and everyone swore they were real. So now that I’m teaching my son how to do it, I’m interested in knowing who is right. We all turn around.
The dictionary defines adobo as “a spicy dish or sauce.” In the Philippines, pickle refers to a centuries-old process of preserving food by putting it in vinegar and salt. It was the colonialists of Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, who gave the native dish its current name, and Chinese merchants who introduced soy sauce to replace the salt. So far, all Filipino pickles have a common vinegar, but other ingredients depend on the region, town, and even the family. Garlic, bay leaves, pepper, and other spices can enter the mix, and even the vinegar type can vary.
Bottom line: Adobo is a way of cooking rather than a specific recipe. Kind of like how barbeque in America is a way of cooking with enthusiastic supporters of sauce-or-no-sauce. In contrast, Filipinos respectfully recognize each other’s creations, while secretly knowing their own recipe is the true way.