Vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and black peppercorns. This is how I cook adobo. I marinate pork, chicken, or a combination of the two in vinegar and spices and let the flavors steep overnight. Then I slowly cook the meat in the same vinegar marinade until the meat is tender and I bring the cooking liquid to a boil and reduce it to a rich, pungent sauce.

This is the adobo my mom made when I was little, the adobo she makes when she visits. This is the adobo I pair with pancit, the adobo I eat cold with hot rice and sweet tomatoes mashed by hand and sprinkled with salt. This is the adobo I learned to make on my own after I moved to California, the adobo I make each time I long for home.

There are as many variations to adobo as there are islands in the Philippine archipelago. Differences in the landscape, in custom and culture from island to island, from town to town, from family to family translate to differences in technique and ingredients used as well as differences in taste and texture.

The differences start with the kind of vinegar — cane or coconut, apple cider or balsamic. Some add soy sauce, some add fish sauce, others even both. Gata, the cream and milk pressed from coconuts, is essential in Bicol-style adobo. Humba [hoom-bah], the pork stew from the Visayas, is sweet, sour, and salty all at once. The Visayan version uses soy sauce, brown sugar, and tausi: fermented black soybeans or tajure: fermented soybean cake, which are all Chinese influences. Potatoes and hard-boiled eggs are added to make adobo more substantial, enough to feed an extended family of lolos and lolas, titos and titas. The quintessential Filipino dish is a stew but the meat pickled in vinegar and spices can be fried, broiled, or grilled.

Adobo is a very personal dish. It is like the color of one’s skin, the shape of one’s eyes or the shape of one’s nose. Recipes are handed from father to son, from grandmother to granddaughter, from neighbor to neighbor. They are borrowed and adapted then adjusted and fine tuned. The way one cooks adobo reveals where one was raised, where one has lived. It reveals one’s roots. One’s history. It tells one’s unique story.

How do you cook adobo?

 

Humba Visayan Styel Pork Adobo

 

Humba Recipe
Recipe adapted from Reynaldo G. Alejandro’s Authentic Recipes from the Philippines, makes four servings

1/2 cup cane or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
2 bay leaves
2 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder, cut into large serving pieces
1/4 cup tausi or fermented black beans
1/3 cup toasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
salt to taste

Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Add marinade to pork in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate for at least two hours or refrigerate overnight.

Place pork and marinade in a heavy saucepan and add water, just enough to cover the pork. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium to low, and simmer until pork is tender, about one hour.

Stir in black beans and peanuts. Raise heat to medium to high, simmer uncovered until sauce is reduced in half or desired thickness is reached. Season with salt. Serve hot with cooked rice.

Cooking Notes:

1. Traditional humba is made from pork knuckles or pork belly. I use pork butt or pork shoulder for less fat and more meat.

2. Tausi or fermented black beans is readily available in most Asian stores. Some use tajure or fermented soybean cake instead of tausi but tajure is more difficult to find.

 

Humba

Humba

 

Learn the alphabet of Filipino food through our glossary. So much is lost in translation, I know, but I hope this glossary will help those unfamiliar with Filipino food become more informed.

A is for Achuete
B is for Barako Coffee
C is for Camarón
D is for Dinuguan
E is for Ensaimada
F is for Fish Balls
G is for Gata
H is for Himagas
I is for Itlog na Maalat
J is for Jackfruit
K is for Kamayan
L is for Longganisa
M is for Mani
N is for Noche Buena
O is for Omelet
P is for Pancit Palabok
Q is for Queso
R is for Relleno
S is for Sawsawan
T is for Tutong
U is for Ube
V is for Visayas

  • Nancy

    Thanks for explaining why my Visayan ex-husband used to make humba! Wonder how good it would be if that brown sugar were muscovado from the Philippines….

  • cowpants

    Hi Jun, what are you going to do when you’ve used up all the letters? You could add a couple of Spanish letters (rr, ll, ñ)… and then you’ll have to start all over again! =)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Ha! I know, I’m running out of letters. The only letters left are W and Y.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Nancy, Visayans love humba. And you have to try the recipe. It’s really good! If you want I can make it for you at home! We have muscovado sugar.

  • Niecey Roy

    I make adobo just like this, except I do not add beans or nuts! I will have to try this version. I love adobo. It’s one of the dishes I request whenever visiting my mom. No matter how many times I watch her cook it, no matter if I use the same ingredients, mine never tastes as good as hers. I suppose the difference comes from the comfort of being in the kitchen with her, listening to her laughing, or instructing me to do this or that, then sitting at the table with a large bowl of steaming rice and the mouth watering adobo. Her food always makes me feel better :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/vijitha.shyam Vijitha Shyam

    I will have to try same recipe lamb. It looks so delicious. Love the dark color and that seems so inviting for me. YUM!

  • Jeannie

    I remembered my maid cooking adobo which is very delicious and this dish certainly looks like hers! Bookmarking for trying out in my kitchen soon! Thanks for sharing:D

  • http://twitter.com/adoboloco adoboloco

    Aloha Jun,

    I’m a huge fan of collecting adobo recipes and this one sounds fantastic. I’ve cooked a similar Adobo but without the fermented beans and peanuts. I can only imagine that the beans and peanuts add a richness that plays well with the vinegar. With the Oregano it reminds me of Vinha d’Alhos ( Portuguese Pickled Pork )

    I’ll have to try this. Would love to add this to our recipe blog if your okay with that?

    Mahalo,

    Tim

  • http://twitter.com/nuts4pilinuts Emilie

    This is my favorite dish of all time. It has all elements that I love, sweet, salty & umami. I learned to cook humba way before I learned how to cook the regular adobo. The way I cook it is with pineapple juice. Your version is very interesting though. I will be making this the next time humba is up on our menu. I can’t believe I’ve waited until V to comment LOL. Maybe you should add the additional letters in the Filipino alphabet, ñ and ng. (I find it challenging because I cant’t think of a single word beginning with those letters). Again, great job Jun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/banal.spectacle Thea Lourdes Sophia

    Yum! I just made my chicken adobo two nights ago, will try this version of the pork!

  • Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

    It looks so delicious and perfect for this weahter.

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    I make my adobo very similar to yours, except with the addition of soy sauce. I haven’t had adobo in months – too long – and now I am craving it!

  • Samantha

    I am not terribly faithful to one type of adobo- like you described in your post, I also like to change my adobo depending on my mood and what I happen to have in the pantry. I’ve even tried the Cook’s Illustrated version with the coconut milk and I was pleased with the results. I DO want to try the tausi next time…sounds intriguing! Thanks for the terrific post!

  • Sarah

    Hello Jun! :) What a coincidence, I just cooked Adobo and had the last serving at lunch!!! :) You’re right when you say that Adobo is personal dish. My father is from Leyte and he loves his mom’s Adobo…so much that my mom, a Vietnamese, had to learn how to make it, and got the perfect teacher: my grandmother. Needless to say that my own Adobo is a family recipe. It resembles to yours, save the peanuts, tausi and oregano. I am tempted to try your version and I must say it looks gorgeous! Thanks for sharing! :)

  • nina

    Hi jun! I’ve been following your blog awhile now. The pictures are beautiful, all these food look really tasty.
    I’m Bisaya and humba is one of the things I look forward during weekends when my mother would serve it. We never saw it as adobo. humba was a class on its own. And it can be cooked two ways – pinoy style / rather simple and more tangy or ‘chinese’ style/ sweeter and with black salty or fermented beans.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Nina, thank you for writing. I am curious to know if your mother made humba with pineapple juice. I’ve seen recipes that list pineapple juice as an ingredient. I wonder if this is a variation of some sort within the Visayas.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Emilie, for writing. I’ve seen other recipes like yours that use pineapple juice. I wonder if it’s a variation of some sort within the Visayas. Is your family Visayan?

    I am a little sad that the series is coming to an end. I’ve enjoyed putting it together so far and very surprised at how much people have enjoyed reading it, too.

    Thank you once again for following the blog. Next time you’re in the Bay Area let me know. It would be great to meet you!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing, Sarah. I love the mix of cultures in your family — Filipino and Vietnamese.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Tim, thank you for writing. I’d love for you to try humba and add it to your recipe blog. Let me know how it goes.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    I love the way you described cooking with your mom — that’s what makes adobo authentic and delicious. Thank you for writing, Niecey.

  • nina

    No pineapple juice in her humba. Vinegar is the souring ingredient she uses.

  • http://thehungrygiant.net/ TheHungryGiant

    My dad hails from Bohol, and his “humba” doesn’t use soy sauce but patis (fish sauce) and he lets the fat render from the meat, drains it and then adds the condiments. I love his version of adobo/humba/whatever it is…it’s sour, delicious and never “nakakaumay”, because he doesn’t add sugar. Great recipe Jun, thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/thecheapmonk Alvin

    Speaking of adobo as personal dish, my uncle makes his using butter, garlic and a bottle of Knorr liquid seasoning! Not for the faint of heart (or someone with high b.p.).

  • Stacie D

    Hi Jun — trying ths recipe tonight and my house smells great. I was intrigued by the used of fermented black beans, a favorite Chinese ingredient I always have on hand. I’m interested in expanding my knowledge of Filipino flavors. Do you have recommendations for where to eat Filipino food in the Bay Area? I will also be bookmarking some more recipes to try.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Stacie, thank you for writing and for trying the recipe. I hope you enjoyed it. There’s another Filipino dish that also uses fermented black beans — with fried fish instead of pork. I’ll post it in the blog soon.

    There are a few Filipino restaurants that I like in the Bay Area. Attic in San Mateo, Tastebuds in San Bruno, Tribu Grill also in San Bruno, and Toppings Too in Union City. Hapa SF, a food truck, makes really good Filipino food. You can catch the truck in the city and in multiple spots throughout the Bay. Thank you once again for following the blog.

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  • http://Foodsworth.com/ Foodsworth

    This looks great! Amazing how much love has to go into an Adobo for those five wonderful minutes of eating it

  • Don Datu

    humba bisaya is never adobo for us. we have our recipe for adobo, and that is adobo. never humba is our adobo.