December 9, 2023

Food Bazaar

Get In My Food Bazaar

Let’s talk about Adobo, atbp.

Bea Crisostomo, Ige Ramos and Jed Doble at the UFF Teater Kuliner stage.

Bea Crisostomo, Ige Ramos and Jed Doble at the UFF Teater Kuliner stage.

Philippine cuisine had its bright and delicious moment at the recently concluded Ubud Food Festival (UFF) 2022 in Ubud, Bali, the popular tourist island destination in Indonesia from June 24 to 26. Under the theme “Figures Behind Indonesian Culinary Culture” UFF 2022 revolved around food — expressed through master- classes, special events, workshops, cooking demonstrations, chef col- laborations, music and arts, food bazaar and many more.

Ige Ramos with this year's Miss Indonesia
Laksmi Shari De Neefe Suardana

Ige Ramos with this year’s Miss Indonesia
Laksmi Shari De Neefe Suardana

Of these festival programs, comes one topic that stands out: “An Array of Adobo with Ige Ramos.” It’s a tasting workshop-cum-group discussion that highlights one of the Philippines’ most iconic dishes, facilitated by modern-day Filipino food heroes— award-winning Filipino food writer, book designer and visual artist Ige Ramos, with writer and entrepreneur Bea Crisostomo, owner of the Dumaguete-based sustainable general store, Ritual.

The international audience enjoying the tasting workshop.

The international audience enjoying the tasting workshop.

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The tasting workshop was moderated by Jed Doble, Filipino publisher of the Jakarta-based FoodieS Magazine. Along with them during the festival is award-winning mixologist Kalel Demetrio and Celina Agaton, a supporter of long-term cross-sector and donor approach for culinary and food security initiatives.

How was it that a group of Filipino food advocates found themselves in the center stage of the UFF? It is through the salty, tangy and delectable adobo, and the many similarities and nuances in the food of the Philippines and Indonesia.

Maria Orosa's version of Pork Adobo –
one of the three adobo dishes served
during the UFF 2022.

Maria Orosa’s version of Pork Adobo –
one of the three adobo dishes served
during the UFF 2022.

As neighboring countries with shared heritage and culture, foods like Java rice, Java sauce, atchara and adobo in the Philippines might just have a different name and a slightly different twist in Indonesia.

“Filipinos all have their own opinion on which one is the best, there is no single standard on how to cook adobo,” Ige pointed out.

And so, of the countless versions of adobo, Ige and the Filipino team prepared three types of adobo for the international audience, shedding light on one dish that is “embedded in the Filipino DNA,” as Ige said.

Default dish of the Philippines

“Even a four-year-old child can cook adobo,” Ige said as he begins the workshop.

Proudly representing the Philippine flag all the way in Indonesia, Ige introduced Adobo to the audience. “Adobo is highly debatable as a national dish. It is a default dish that every Filipino would cook in times of emergency because the ingredients are easily accessible.”

As he prepared the classic chicken adobo for the audience, Ige described this dish as a “portal to Filipino food” for its palatability, ease of cooking, experimental ratio, availability of ingredients, and flexibility of cooking.

With six distinctive elements: aromatics, salty and savory medium, acid, protein or vegetable, fat, and state (flaky, oily dry, or soupy), adobo, as Ige said, is more of a cooking technique rather than a dish; a technique common when cooking other Filipino dishes.

In an effort to present true Filipino flavors, Ige and Bea brought with them some ingredients from the Philippines. As a salty and savory medium for the Classic Chicken Adobo, Ige brought Mamasita’s toyomansi. Take note that kalamansi is not commonly used in Indonesia, and it is almost impossible to find in local stores and supermarkets.

The souring agent they used is an original Sukang Ilocos, sold at Bea’s Ritual shop. “This is made from sugar cane. They press the sugar cane and the juice comes out. The juice is stored in a clay jar and it spontaneously ferments. The Philippines uses different elements to make suka or vinegar, and this one is from the north of the Philippines,” Bea explained to the audience.

Culture and food

Of Filipino food in relation to culture, Ige talks about how most Filipino kids grow up—in the kitchen helping mothers prepare meals for the family. At least this was the case in the good, old days, way before handphones and video games were popular.

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have a refrigerator, and so my mother and I would shop every other day. All the ingredients we use for our food are found within a 5-kilometer radius,” Ige mused.

As the aroma of Ige’s chicken adobo enveloped Teater Kuliner, he shares how adobo is found in the Philippine diaspora around the globe.

“You can smell the aroma of adobo coming from a lonely Filipino student cooking in her dormitory, or a group of construction workers in Dubai sharing a dish of adobo, a Filipino nurse who is missing home cooks adobo, or families,” he narrates. On that day, it was Ige, Bea and the rest of the Filipino team in the UFF 2022 who brought not one, but three types of adobo to Bali, Indonesia.

The second Adobo the Filipino team prepared was “Adobo sa Dilaw” or Turmeric Adobo, this time, using Fish Sauce or patis as the salty or savory medium, and using turmeric as one of the aromatics. Ige also used Mamasita’s Sinamak vinegar, infused with aromatics and peppers for extra flavor.

Holding a historical value to his home province in Cavite, Ige narrates that Adobo sa Dilaw is the favorite dish of the Philippines’ first president, Emilio Aguinaldo.

As he continued to share the local food culture in Cavite, Ige shared the philosophy of “Terno, Terno, Tono, Tono” which means match and in-tune in food. He prepared the atchara made from green papaya and other aromatics to compliment the different adobo dishes.

Food heroes, nuances and the relevance of suka

Speaking with The Manila Times, Ige mentioned some of his personal Filipino food heroes. He mentions Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Felice Sta. Maria and Doreen Fernandez as some of his Filipino food heroes, as these women continued to ask questions and dig for answers to find out more about Filipino food.

On the question that is frequently asked, “What is Filipino food?” One cannot have a concrete answer, however, Ige quotes Doreen Fernandez in the alternative way of asking this question.

“How does food become Filipino?”

Indonesia’s Yellow Rice or Nasi Kuning is likened to Java rice and Kecap Manis is to Java sauce, both introduced in the Philippines by the famous The Aristocrat Restaurant. Ige fondly recalled that upon traveling to Java, in Indonesia he discovered that Java rice and Java sauce do not exist in the island of Java.

This shows how Filipinos can “Philippinize” food (make food Filipino) by adding their own twist and flavor to a particular dish.

In Indonesia they also have different versions of atchar or atchara, pickled carrots, cucumber and green chili served with some of their fried dishes.

Having lived in Indonesia for 14 years, Jed points out that in comparison to Indonesian food, Filipino enjoys food with a tangy flavor.

“To those uninitiated to Filipino food, the hallmark of our food is acid—whether it is vinegar, citrus, Filipinos love souring agents,” Jed told the audience.

As they all pointed out the importance of vinegar in Philippine cuisine, Bea educated the audience on how vinegar is produced.

“We make vinegar from banana, pineapple, sugar cane—the possibilities are endless! There are different types of vinegar from different parts of the Philippines and each region has their own way of making it,” Bea said.

Last of the three adobo dishes that Ige prepared is the Pork Adobo recipe of another Filipino food here, Maria Y. Orosa, cooked with palm or coconut vinegar for a sweet twist to the tasty dish.

Not only did the audience get to try three different types of Adobo, they also received a Mamasita giveaway package with Adobo Mix, Barbeque Mix and a cookbook inside.

As most Filipinos would leave any gathering happy and satisfied, the audience of the UFF 2022 left satiated, satisfied and smiling as they tasted three varieties of Adobo. The Filipino food advocates at the UFF 2022 certainly left the international audience hungrier and more curious on what the Philippines has to offer.

As he continues to advocate Filipino food, Ige hopes to find Filipino cuisine in the culinary repertoire of international chefs.