This recipe for “adobo pork in a pickling style” could be a taste shock if you have not tried something like this before: not a curry, not chinese, not anything familiar really. Pork chops, thin cut loin steaks or cubed loin are marinated in soy sauce, distilled white vinegar, lots of crushed garlic, whole black peppercorns and bay leaves, then stewed and then the heat turned up to caramelise and make a sticky sauce. The peppercorns make this hot and the white vinegar makes it brutally sharp, while the soy sauce gives the dish amazing depth and a deep red-browny colour, with the garlic as a strong undertone but not as overwhelming as the amounts suggest. The peppercorns soften in the marinade and then cook in the stew and sort of crush in your mouth with a fiery surprise. Wonderful.
This dish is an adaptation of an adaptation. The original recipe came to our family via Indian actress Madhur Jaffrey’s first/early celebrity cookbook from the 1970’s, which I cannot trace now, but she was inspired by a Filipino classic dish, adobo pork & chicken for which no standard recipe exists. Jaffrey anyway had a tendency to over-oil/over-ghee her recipes, and whatever cut of pork she suggested we changed that along the way too. I have to say this is also a very fickle dish, sometimes the pork does not seem to want to be anything other than solid and hard, other times it is perfect melt in the mouth and yet it can flake away to nothing too. Such is pork casserole really and the variable quality of pork we have in our supermarkets, else I am a rubbish cook with no consistency, which could conceivably be the case! Oh and a big, big thank you to Greedy Rosie for checking her vast recipe book collection for me and finding yet another adobo version, the lady is a star.
Pork in Pickling Style Recipe Basic Ingredients:
Depending on how many people you are feeding, this recipe of course can be scaled up and down. A 500g pork loin will serve two to three people, this sounds like a lot of meat but reduces down considerably when cooked and could serve four if you have additional side dishes. Trim off any pork fat/rind to your own taste (I tend to remove as much as I can but in the Philippines traditionally you would probably use a more fatty pork). Place your cubed pork, pork chops or thick cut loin chops in a bowl, add in equal volumes of light Soy Sauce to distilled White Vinegar to adequately cover, I use around 8 tablespoons or 1/2 (US) Cup of each to feed 4 and my preference is for Kikkoman soya sauce, though I used a new “delux” double-fermented Lee Kum Kee soy sauce for this one today which is much redder in colour. A variation is to use 1/4 dark soy sauce and 3/4 light soy, it gives a richer and darker look and taste, but not strictly necessary as long as you are using a decent quality soy. Crush 4-6 garlic cloves and add in, along with a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, a heaped teaspoon of brown sugar (Demerara or muscavo, whatever you have, palm sugar would probably be more authentic) and 2 medium-size bay leaves.
Method: Marinate in the fridge for as long as you can, but for at least a couple of hours. It can sit in there all day if that suits, just turn the meat over a few times. In either a large, deep skillet (that has a lid for later) or a wide-based heavy pot, warm a tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil, more if you have a large volume of pork. Crush another 4-6 garlic cloves and gently fry over a low heat. Brown very large pork chops first and separately before softening the garlic, it is not necessary to brown cubed pork or thin loin steaks. Add in the pork to the softened garlic with all of the marinade and a cup of cold water so that the pork is just covered. Bring to the boil for a few minutes before putting the lid on and stew gently until cooked, anywhere from half an hour for thin loin chops or tender pork loin to 45 minutes for thick chunky chops or very large cubed and less tender meat. Remove the cooked pork, then turn up the heat under the pan for 5 minutes or so until it foams and creates a sticky, carmelised sauce. If you are faffing around meantime with veg and rice, you can add splashes of hot water just to keep it from being too dry–if you make this dish you will see what I mean! Remove the bay leaves, and place the meat back in the sauce before serving with sicky white rice (I overcook Basmati by a couple of minutes but you can use e.g. Thai sticky rice) and with steamed or stir-fried greens on the side. It is great to put out a serving dish of rice with the entire adobo pork casserole on top and let folks help themselves–the sticky sauce kind of mixes up with the slightly sticky rice, its fab.
Comment: So you don’t have to, I have tried all variations I can imagine–all dark soya sauce, brown malt and cider & wine vinegars, I have tried quickly marinading too and tried reducing down the garlic. I have tried adding other spices/ginger and so on too. No variations work out, but if you do hit on another combo, please let me know! This dish is what it is: brutally tasty–it clubs rather than charms the tastebuds, buy hey, sometimes that is just what you need. We loved this as kids but I would pick out the peppercorns first for the very small ones…