The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Celebrating the long-lasting Filipino dish with Chef Claude Tayag


On the launch of Chef Claude Tayag’s recent book on adobo, Mama Sita’s puts the highlight on vinegar, the cooking method’s hero ingredient.

Filipino chef and all-around culture advocate Claude Tayag launched his latest tome titled ‘The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories through the Ages.’ Called ‘Sa Pula, Sa Puti, Sa Dilaw’, the event was held last February 24, 2023, on the BALIKADA Street Fair hosted by U.P. Diliman’s Sigma Delta Phi.

Mama Sita’s served vegetarian adobo rice in banana leaves to present new ways to make adobo dishes!
Mama Sita’s served vegetarian adobo rice in banana leaves to present recent ways to make adobo dishes!

Greater than a set of recipes, the book presents a plethora of private stories from various Filipinos and their very own experiences of cooking adobo, including special techniques that make each iteration their very own. Some well-known individuals who shared their adobo tales include artist Ben Cabrera, broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, food author Angelo Comsti, and chefs Tom Cunanan (Bad Saints), Robby Goco (Cyma), and Jessie Sincioco (Chef Jessie Rockwell Club).

The event’s title captures exactly how multidimensional cooking adobo is. ‘Sa puti’ refers to using aromatics and vinegar with no soy sauce, ‘sa dilaw’ refers back to the use of luyang dilaw (ginger), while ‘sa pula’ refers back to the use of achuete comparable to within the adobo dish of Batangas.

Chef Claude Tayag signs copies of his new book ‘The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories through the Ages’
Chef Claude Tayag signs copies of his recent book ‘The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories through the Ages’

Highlighting the complexity and richness of adobo has at all times been Claude Tayag’s advocacy, who had contested the concept of a standardized adobo method in 2021 when it was proposed by the Department of Trade and Industry. This even led to a series of adobo articles in his column under The Philippine Star which inspired the making of the book.

Although he has consistently shown the manifold ways one can create this iconic Filipino dish, adobo can essentially be described as a technique wherein vinegar is used as the first cooking liquid. A method that may even be traced back to pre-Hispanic times.

“You may say this was the preferred ingredient since it was found all around the Philippines, and each region would have its specific type of vinegar: coconut vinegar, sasa vinegar from the nipa palm, Aslam atbu, sukang tubó from the sugar cane…” He also points out that as each region had its own vinegar, so was there a novel term for its use in cooking.

To focus on this culinary tradition of cooking with vinegar, Mama Sita’s showcased its assortment of natural vinegars comparable to Premium Coconut Nectar Vinegar, Sinamak (Spiced Vinegar), and Sukang Tuba (Coconut Floral Sap Vinegar). Harvested by local farmers and naturally fermented, each bottle is lovingly crafted with no artificial ingredients added.

Journalist Ces Drilon and culinary advocate Nina Daza Puyat also attended the event to share their insights.
Journalist Ces Drilon and culinary advocate Nina Daza Puyat also attended the event to share their insights.

When asked how different using natural vinegar is, Tayag mentions its distinct flavor: “Naturally fermented vinegar just isn’t that sour because there’s still some natural sweetness left from it being a fruit juice; versus the commercially made vinegar with acetic acid which turns into vinegar in five days–that’s why it is amazingly sour.”

“If you cook adobo it needs to be the naturally fermented vinegar because adobo mainly is using vinegar without acidity. That’s why one of the best approach to eat adobo is after reheating to let the acidity mellow,” he elaborates.

Except for its natural flavor, Mama Sita’s vinegar products have fun the tedious, time-honored processes of making it: from harvesting the floral sap which entails climbing the oldest, tallest coconut trees, to fermenting the sap itself for months before it could be bottled.

“I have to thank Mama Sita’s for advocating using artisanal vinegars, especially tuba because at the top of the day, if nobody supports these products, the farmers will stop production and the tradition will die… I’ve been advocating local produce, local panlasa, and it is a way of helping small farmers.”

The Ultimate Filipino Adobo book by Claude Tayag, and Mama Sita’s Premium Vinegars can be found on Lazada and Shoppee:

Claude Tayag: Arts+Books+Prints; Mama Sita’s PH

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