Friday, November 6, 2009

The Adventures of the American Adobo

A family friend from home, Cecil, came to San Diego to attend a convention for the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) over the weekend. We met him (yes, Cecil is a he) at his downtown hotel to pick up a "care" package, a.k.a. "padala" or "pasalubong", from family and friends back home.

At the hotel's busy lobby, I was so excited to see a familiar face amongst a veritable sea of people. He was obviously attending a convention, as the huge badge hanging around his neck would attest. I saw him lugging along a huge suitcase and a paper bag as he was walking towards me. Surprised, two possibilities immediately crossed my mind: a.) He is giving up his luxury suite hotel room to spend the weekend with us to have some "bonding" time, or b.) My family and friends have sent me a ton of gifts from back home, thus the need for the suitcase to transport it. I was more concerned about the latter, I thought to myself, “Oh no my mother over did it again”! Flashback: A few years ago, a family friend asked my mom if she wanted to send some things for me upon his return to the US. He told my mom that he had space available as he was not bringing home much. My mom sent me a box full of flavored century tuna and bottled gourmet tuyo. Although I love Century Tuna, it was embarrassing because apparently my friend’s back ached carrying that box! So I thought... hmmm this must be another century tuna package. It turned out the answer to my question was: neither of the above. I found out that the lining of Cecil’s luggage was broken so he had bought a new one and he was wondering if I could still use an extra suitcase. Well the suitcase looked great, so I decided to take it with me.

We took him around San Diego visiting Coronado Island, Balboa Park and the seaside town of La Jolla. As the evening drew near, my hubby and I asked where would he want to go for dinner. We offered him different choices... Chinese, Italian or American cuisine. His choice: Malou's cuisine. He mentioned how he was craving for my home cooked meals, especially my adobo. So if it wasn't much of a hassle, he would prefer heading to our house for a genuine home cooked meal and also to see my kids. After all, he hasn't seen them for more than 5 years. Before coming over here in the US, our families had frequent dinners/trips and did so many things together. Our kids were also the best of friends. He said he missed my cooking. He reiterated his earlier request, saying that he doesn't mind if I cook him my version of "adobo"

There are so many versions of adobo, it depends which region of the Philippines you come from. But my versions of adobo, since the time I left the Philippines, are continuously evolving. Actually, I think it depends upon my mood: I have the “oh so glorious garlic” adobo, which my sister truly loves, and the asim (sour) adobo which, has a lot more vinegar than the usual adobo, which my mom loves. (And oh I could vividly recall how she would instruct our cook to go easy on the soy sauce as she wants more vinegar on it). And yes, adobo was one of my mom's "impromptu dishes” as it's so easy to make. The latest version I have learned to love is the Hernandez Adobo, which is a friend’s recipe sent to me via Facebook. It also has lots of garlic but is uniquely orange in color. It is oh-so-delish as well.

I took the cue from my guest’s requests: my menu tonight will be pork adobo, chicken and vegetables ala pinakbet. So in my head, I was improvising, or rather “impromptu-ing”. I know that I have marinated chicken in the fridge (Impromptu Diva TIP: I marinate meats and chicken right after grocery shopping. It saves me a lot of time and it comes in handy when I need to don my IMPROMPTU Diva apron).

To buy myself time, I suggested that Cecil and my hubby go to Best Buy while I make dinner. I then instructed my daughter at home to load the marinated chicken in the oven. My daughter’s help save me some time since baking the chicken requires more than 30 minutes. As we got home, the smell of the chicken baking emanated from the kitchen (thanks to my kids who could do things just as I ordered). I instinctively took out the pork from the fridge, and while he suggested "adobo", I thought somehow of turning my adobo into something "American", as I saw some red apples sitting on the fruit basket. The result: Cinnamon Apple Glazed Pork Adobo. He also mentioned that he cared for some vegetables ala pinakbet, so I grabbed some zucchini and made Zucchini in Raspberry Vinaigrette. It had the same color as pinakbet but quite a different flavor and texture. Another impromptu tip: always have some seafood and fish in the freezer, as these are the easiest to prepare. I grabbed a pack of tilapia fillets and proceeded to prepare Naughty (nutty) Tilapia.

Dinner was ready as soon as the big boys arrived from the big boys store, grinning with their 'big boys' smile. It was an enjoyable, no fuss dinner, easy to do and easy on the budget as well, very impromptu-esque indeed.

Apple Cinnamon Glazed Adobo

1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c red wine (I used a left over)
2 tbsp sugar
a dash of oregano
a dash of cinnamon (i put half a tsp since we love cinnamon)
4 cloves garlic minced
3 bay leaves
a dash of parsley
3 lbs pork (I used boneless country ribs for easy slicing- please see pics)
1 pc apple thinly sliced.


Combine all the ingredients (except for the pork) and let it simmer. On a different pan, brown the pork then add it to the simmering mixture. Let it cook until it gets dehydrated or until the sauce begins to thicken. As soon as it thickens, drop the sliced apples. Make sure the glaze covers the apples as well as the pork. So simple yet so delish!

Garlic Chicken


Salt and pepper

Marinate chicken using the 4 ingredients. Preferably marinate it overnight. Cover and bake the chicken at 375F. After 40 minutes remove cover and shift it to broil. (I put it on high) This will take about 8-10 minutes each side. Make sure not over cook it as it will make your chicken dry.

For Gravy:
2 tbsp flour
1 c chicken stock
salt and pepper
Garlic minced

In a pan, brown the garlic in butter. Set aside. Using the same pan, make a roux by browning the flour. Add the chicken stock and drippings. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the toasted garlic on the chicken and gravy. That will give your simple chicken the extra zing!.

Nutty Tilapia

5 pcs tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
2 tbsp mayo
1/2 c parmessan
1/2 tsp celery flakes
Crushed Nuts


Season the tilapia with lemon, salt and pepper. On a bowl mix the parmesan, celery flakes and mayo. Top it with crushed nuts. (any kind will do!) Broil the tilapia for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Again be careful not to burn the dish.

Zucchini in Raspberry Vinaigrette

2 pcs. Zucchini
1 large tomato
1 pkg of sliced mushrooms
Feta cheese
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Chop the Zucchini tomato and onions. (You could add olives if you prefer but at that time I didn't have it available). Add the mushrooms. Top it with minced garlic. Drizzle the Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing and top it with feta cheese. Bake it for about 10 minutes. Voila Done!

Spread it on the fillets. Top it with crushed nuts. Bake for 10 minutes. And the tilapia is ready for a bite.

P.S. Stay tuned for future blogs wherein I will include the more traditional adobo recipes, and if my friend Jenny agrees, the Hernandez adobo that I mentioned.

Also, please check for more photos. Thanks!


  1. Nothing can get more Fil-Am than American Adobo! This dish reminds me of many Filipinos who have lived in the U.S. for sometime - who have been "Americanized" in so many ways but still retained their Filipino accent - It is a beautiful beautiful thing! This Adobo dish is indeed American but there is no denying its Filipino flair!

  2. thanks roushel. you will see more of those in my future recipes. remember the secret to "impromptuing" is being creative and having fun! enjoy!

  3. Oooooh, I love the garlic chicken and nutty tilapia! Can we make it together when I come home, Momma?

    c: Love you! This blog is phenomenal, Mom! you are so talented.

  4. yes and we could do a lot more! looking forward to see you again daw-ter!

  5. hello impromptu diva! Have you ever tried using red wine vinegar instead of red wine and chicken instead of pork using this recipe? I've been trying to avoid eating red meat and drink alcohol (only for health reasons though).

  6. hello cookies and cream!

    i've never tried it yet but i think you could use it. the difference that it gives between both is the "vinegar" flavor that you get from the red wine vinegar! Go ahead use it but go slow on it. Also i just want to let you know that when you cook the red wine, the alcohol evaporates... and yes chicken is a good substitute. One of the comments I got from my Facebook wall is that she tried it on chicken too and it is equally delish as well. good luck and let me know.

  7. So, I've just made the american adobo and it turned out great! I used the red wine vinegar and did exactly what you told me to go slow on the red wine vinegar. I only used 1/4 cup of it. I was a little concerned that the vinegar would overpower the dish but when I added the chicken and the apples, everything came together. There wasn't any hint of vinegar at all. My American co workers like the Filipino adobo and I know they will like this too. All the spices in this recipe made this dish very fragrant. Thank you for all the love and effort you've put into this recipe. It's certainly a keeper!

  8. thanks cookies and cream! comments such as yours are what drive me to post more creative recipes on Impromptu Diva! So stay tuned!


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