Filipino or Spanish? Adobo‘s Disputed Origins
The word adobo is derived from the Spanish word adobar, which means “marinade” or “pickling sauce.” The existence of the tangy dish was first recorded in 1613 by the Spaniard Pedro de San Buenaventura. In the dictionary he was compiling, Buenaventura listed the tart viand as “adobo de los naturales” for its similarity to Spanish and Mexican dishes that went by the same name. But while our favorite ulam’s moniker boasts of a pure Spanish lineage, little else about our adobo can and should be attributed to our Hispanic conquerors. According to the food historian Raymond Sokolov, the ingredients for adobo already existed in the Philippines before Ferdinand Magellan even laid eyes on our shores. Because the dish’s original name was never recorded (and in a case of what Sakolov calls “lexical imperialism”), the Spanish label stuck.
our adobo shares its name with a couple of Hispanic dishes, there are key differences between the Filipino version and its Spanish and Mexican cousins. The Spanish adobo sauce is distinctly spiced and fiery, with at least three kinds of chili peppers, tomato paste, and cinnamon among its ingredients while the Mexican rendition uses lemon juice, cumin, and Mexican oregano. On the other hand, the Filipino adobo base is comprised almost exclusively of vinegar, which not only flavors but also tenderizes the meat.