Chinese-style pork adobo

When I was a kid in the province, trips to Manila were always a treat. I especially enjoyed visiting my cousins in Caloocan, not just because it meant more playmates, but because my uncle always made sure there was Chinese adobo — succulent pieces of pork swimming in a thick, dark red, sweet and aromatic sauce. The biggest difference between classic Filipino adobo and the Chinese version is the absence of vinegar.

I haven’t had Chinese adobo in a while, and so when I saw a recipe for it in my aunt’s cookbook a couple of nights ago I totally perked up. I had most of the ingredients in my cupboard and a wonderful friend had just gotten me some pork belly from the Korean grocery store. The only problem? My aunt’s recipe did not include any measurements. You know how a lot of Capampangans cook; we just eyeball everything, LOL! So these measurements are based on my own experimentation. Consider these as the base; you can always add more to intensify the flavor.

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INGREDIENTS

  • small head of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 pound pork belly, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 3-4 pieces star anise
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, optional

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Sprinkle salt over pork, then set aside. In a medium-sized pot, saute garlic in oil over medium heat. When the garlic is golden brown, add the pork, occasionally stirring. When the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, add the soy sauce, bay leaves, star anise, ground pepper and sugar. Let it simmer for a while, about 7-10 minutes (just make sure it doesn’t go dry). Add water and cover the pot. Simmer for about 1 hour or so, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thicker by now; if not, leave the cover off but watch the sauce carefully. Add the sesame oil and sprinkle with the seeds before serving over hot rice.

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I’m so looking forward to heating this up. Like any adobo, I’m sure this dish will taste much better after getting reheated. BTW, if you’re wondering why the meat and sauce here is not dark red, like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s because I didn’t use any food coloring. I’ve seen some recipes suggest adding hoisin sauce or oyster sauce, as well as hardboiled eggs. I might try one or both of the sauces next time and see if they amp up the flavor. I do like the idea of eggs, but maybe quail eggs will work better.

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