Chapter 13: Belonging To My Own Adobo Adventures

Last chapter was somewhat sad and touched so much on belonging that I’d like to dispel the thought, to the few wonderful people who bother to read my inanities, that being here in America has not been a blessing. Especially so since so many dream of being in the same place as I am. I do appreciate where I am, and I have tried not to take for granted, as most people who’ve lived here all their lives so often do, the things that come with the benefits of living here in “the States.” I’m not referring to social security, whose number I do have , but whose benefits I don’t think I’ll have a chance to experience; or, the so-called “American Dream” of a house with a two-car garage, which  has, in more recent times, been closer to a foreclosure and living in cars instead. (Maayo gani kay naa pay kotse.)

The blessings I refer to is the quality of life that is better lived here that, even though there is a recession, is still higher than, in my opinion lang gud, what life is where I come from. So, why do I wax over my Davao life? Why not? It doesn’t mean that because we live a better life outside of where we came from, we give up what makes us who we are. And, I have to admit, here, I am ‘outside’ looking in. In Davao, I’m inside looking out. Does that make sense?

The sense of belonging takes time. It took all of 54 years for me be comfortable in my own skin, so it may just take some more for that old skin to feel the same way here.

And so, in my effort to bring that belongingness to where I am, and maybe take a break from all these light-headed laments on age and immigration, I’d like to share  another recipe (adobo sempre!) I’ve done twice already because, according to the people who I served it to, ‘It’s really good!”. And, also, it takes my adobo adventure one recipe further.

This one I got from a magazine I brought from Davao that a friend recommended, and so was promptly bought. This is where I also found the Japanese adobo recipe I mentioned in Facebook. Anyway, the name under the recipe contribution was Gene Gonzales (of Gene’s Bistro). What I found interesting with this one is that it had patis (fermented fish sauce) and rum! I remember reading some recipes in my adobo bible (The Adobo Book by Reynaldo Alejandro and Nancy Reyes-Lumen) of some recipes that use patis instead of soy sauce. If some of you already know of this, well, this is the first time for me. And, because it turned out so well, in the two times I’d tried it, I would like to put it out there so you can all have a taste of what I am writing about here.

Another thing, this one uses beef, which, even in The Adobo Book, had only three kinds. I do hope you all enjoy this as much as I did making it. It was one of the few successful attempts at sating my palate for a never-ending love for adobo. Here is my version of Gene Gonzalez’s Adobo de Campesino.

Adobo de Campesino
Recipe by Gene Gonzales (and some variations of the same by yours truly)

Achuete oil
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup achuete

8 cloves garlic, peeled, bruised
3 tablespoons achuete oil
700 grams beef short ribs, cut in cubes
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup rum
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons patis (fish sauce)
enough water to cover the meat
1 cup cut sitaw (yard long beans), 2-inch long pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

The achuete oil in Gene Gonzalez’s recipe called for the cup of oil to be simmered in the annatto seeds until the color turned red-orange. But the lady manning the cashier’s counter in the Asian supermarket asked me if I wanted the powdered annatto instead so I just had to mix it in. Shortcut. And I didn’t have to make a whole cup. I just tossed in half a teaspoon of the stuff in the oil I’d have to use, making sure it was well incorporated, before using it.

Sauté the garlic in the achuete-d oil until “slightly brown.”

Stir-fry the beef ribs in with the garlic until all sides of the meat turn brown. I also mixed in a few chunks of beef chucks.

Add the vinegar and rum. “Don’t stir until vinegar and rum mixture boils.” This is very important or else the vinegar doesn’t mix in well and usually tastes raw and sort of metallic.

“Add pepper and patis and stir.” Add water and continue to cook covered until the meat is tender. It took me over an hour or so to do this. Lower the heat to just a simmer and continue to cook uncovered until the liquids turn into a rich, deep orange saucy consistency. You have to stir it once in a while during the entire process.

Remove the meat from the pan and toss in the cut sitaw. Add some salt to taste if you think it still needs it. Serve the sitaw with the meat and pour in the remaining sauce in the pan over the entire thing and serve while hot.

I usually cook the meat ahead by pressure cooker or slow cooker, but I found out that doing it this way made it really taste a million times better. Lami, as in lami gyud kaayo! (Delicious, as in really delicious)

Some tips: you don’t have to have the achuete oil, but it does make it look extra delicious; the sitaw is not absolutely needed, but it does add color and some needed vegetable nutrition if this is the only dish you’ll be serving, as I usually do.

Try this dish. It really is good, and practically a failsafe recipe. The entire original recipe can be found in the August issue of Food magazine. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Dabawenya Margot Marfori is a writer and visual artist who continues to live the Davao she loves. She taught at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao from 1996 to 2002. She is now based more times of the year in Henderson, Nevada, while her youngest son is studying at UNLV, and, where her two older children in San Francisco are near enough to visit).