From ‘adobong tamad’ to adobo haute cuisine

February 4, 2021by Micky Fenix0
‘The Adobo Chronicles’ is a celebration of the ubiquitous but endlessly personalized Filipino dish


Mention adobo to a Filipino and it can conjure a lot of different cooking, memories, even ideas.

And that’s what “The Adobo Chronicles” conveys in its pages. The book, published by the Negros Cultural Foundation, was in celebration of the 21st year of The Negros Adobo Festival.

A project of the foundation created by Lynelle Gaston, the festival hosts an adobo cooking competition but because of the pandemic, the foundation decided on the book to mark the event and to help raise funds, because there are no tourist visitors to the Balay Negrense in Silay and the museum in Bacolod.

The book not only has the recipes of the winners of the Festival, but also essays on adobo by several writers and chefs, some of whom also included their recipes.

The book is also a tribute to Doreen Gamboa Fernandez, dean of food writers and an outstanding Negrense.

Tradition and new

In his introduction, writer and artist Claude Tayag wrote of how the many new adobo recipes spawned by the festival are in keeping with what Fernandez wrote: “Traditional ways are wonderful, but new ways, when applied with understanding and sensitivity can create a dish anew—without betraying the tradition.”

It was Lyn Gamboa, president of the foundation, who told me about the Adobo Festival held at the Balay Negrense years ago. She sent me a pamphlet that compiled winning recipes of the fourth and fifth years (2004-2005) although it was printed in 2008, according to the foreword of Cristina Montelibano, vice president of the foundation.

Some of the recipes in that pamphlet are included in the current book, and they emphasize how you can “adobo” anything. Reading through them informed me of the Ilonggo names of the ingredients.

There is lubag, “a bivalve shellfish abundant in the areas of Silay and Talisay in Negros.” Then another shellfish called balinday, which is sometimes referred to as a kind of clam. There is koryoso, the taro plant, pedada or bell pepper, takway or gabi shoots, kulo, which is a variety of jackfruit.

But there were recipes some would consider quite simple, like Rocky Esguerra’s adobong lugaw (rice porridge with some adobo pieces to flavor it) or unusual like the halo-halo adobo that included root crops.

Robert Harland, a British national and retired executive who studied culinary arts in Bacolod, joined the contest in 2010 and won first prize for his Adobo Crevette a l’Anglaise, shrimp adobo with curry sauce.

According to Harland, it is the curry that makes the dish English, as well.

I was asked to join the contributing writers where my essay was about the confusion regarding the word adobo and how it is the name for a way of cooking rather than a dish.

Family adobo

Many recalled the family adobo.

Nancy Reyes Lumen’s grandmother, Aling Asiang, who founded Aristocrat, sent a pot of adobo to prisoners in Fort Santiago. Two chefs with Negrense roots wrote about their grandmother’s adobo—Tony Boy Escalante’s Lola Azela and her adobo sa puti, which had to be paired with kare-kare, and Datu Shariff Pendatun’s Inday Eni, who cooked crisp and dry adobong caguing.

While working in France, Nico Millanes named his mom’s adobo one of the three food items he missed. Marcos Calo Medina differentiated between the Agusan Calo adobo of his mom’s mother and the Pampango Medina adobo of his father’s family.

Poch Jorolan of Everybody’s Café said he learned how to cook adobo from his Auntie Miling. Patricia Ong Loanzon wrote abut her mom’s adobo and her mother-in-law’s Quezon province adobo.

Three chefs incorporated the adobo in many of their cooking. Glenda Barretto introduced her mother’s adobo agachonas (snipes) when Via Mare started, paired adobo crisp flakes with kare-kare, and did adobo haute cuisine dishes. Myrna Segismundo applied the adobo style to her pâté, terrine, pastes, rubs, salad dressings and pies. Jessie Sincioco incorporated adobo cooking in many dishes in her menu.

Others described different ways with adobo. Ige Ramos mentions many from Cavite, two of which are adobong tamad and adobo sa dilaw. Celeste Legaspi makes hers sometimes with mashed black beans or with calamansi and siling pangsigang. Adobo abroad was found in Ephesus, Greece, by Nonoy Gallardo, done by Filipino seafarers.

Elizabeth Ann Besa Quirino, who resides in the United States, adds apples to her version. Edouard Garcia, who divides his time between Negros and Paris, puts fresh laurel leaves instead of dried, and adds green olives.

If someone were to open a forum on adobo cooking and asked for recipes, I believe there will be more than those contained in the book. INQ

For book orders, text Lyn Gamboa at tel. 0920-9296949; email the author at

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