The most common and popular adobo recipe seen around tends to revolve around pork belly or leg chunks, or pork AND chicken. Traditionally, fatty chicken and fatty pork = adobo especially for travelling, because Filipino style adobo was a cooking method that resulted in a dish not too dissimilar to English potted hare – with the broth thickening to jelly and the fat sealing the top of the jar. In a country where the heat would result in spoiled food while travelling, adobo was king, and still is one of the ‘traditional’ dishes to take with you to the beach picnic.
Adobo flakes is one of those dishes where you add more decadence to delicious awesomeness. Filipino style adobo, to begin with, is a food that is delicious, meaty, and satisfying, then you shred the meat that results, dry it a little, then pan fry it – perhaps in fat reserved from the adobo itself! – until it’s dry, but still gleaming with oil. The extra effort involved in manhandling a wok while stir-frying lots and lots of shredded, deboned meat to fry, dry and aerate is a particularly muscular effort. From the cooking manga Shokugeki no Soma is this example:
I’m frankly, too small and short to do that -I sometimes have to tiptoe to see into a pot that’s in the back burners! – (and ideally, you’d be doing the frying in a large batch) so I had to come up with a way to dry out the meat, and there’s the oven.
For this, you use your adobo recipe, or even leftover adobo, of choice. Any adobo recipe will do; if you don’t have one, I’ve linked my family’s method. I mention the traditional way of making Adobo Flakes there too. For this batch, I cooked chicken thigh cut, with bone-in and skin on, as adobo. I did a super shortcut version, where I dumped in 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of jarred minced garlic and cooked the meat in 1 cup Datu Puti vinegar, 1 cup Marca Pina soy sauce, and covered the meat with just enough water, and brought it to a boil. Boiling it for 20 minutes, then dropping it down to the lowest heat to simmer through the day, resulted in rather unhappy sadfaces when I said ‘that’s not for dinner.’
The bones needed fishing out and I took out the larger ligament/bone ends when I turned off the pot for the evening to cook dinner. I still maintain, however, that cooking with meat bone-in results in better flavor.
I skimmed as much fat off as I could; leaving the pot on a cold stove top to do so the next day. You MAY want to keep the fat, because I regretted chucking it later.
- Shred the meat, making sure to remove any small bones, hard ligaments, and veins. Refrigerate for an hour or two.
- Spread flaked meat onto a baking-paper lined cookie sheet or roasting pan. It’s okay if they’re somewhat lumpy at first. In an oven preheated to 220 degrees celcius, bake the meat for ten minutes. You’ll get most of the liquid out that way. Turn the oven down to 100 degrees celcius and take out the meat. With a wooden spoon, poke and turn the meat over, separating the lumps to allow more thorough drying.
Put the meat back in and allow to dry for another ten minutes, before taking it out and stirring again. The meat should look dryer.
I had two batches; one in a cookie sheet, and one in a roasting pan. The roasting pan allows for more meat to be piled in, while the cookie sheet allows for a thinner layer. Pick which method you prefer.
You may occasionally find some of the chicken’s blood vessels, cooked through and dryed. Take these out, as they’ll have a very strong liver taste, which is a bit of a shock to come across when nibbling these.
Basically, keep drying the meat, taking it out and stirring and flipping over the meat and separating the lumps, until the meat is dry to the touch, but not crispy and crumbling under your fingertips.
At this point, I decided my flakes were done. I would take them out once every ten minutes to turn, shred and separate. The resulting consistency I chose was drier, more like the dried flaked pork meat that you can buy in some Chinese groceries. I don’t know what they’re called elsewhere, but in my family we call it maho (Ma-HO). I went a little drier than I originally wanted because I didn’t want the meat to end up moldy in storage.
Using clean, dry jars, the kind with a rubber seal around the lid, pack away your meat, or use ziplock bags. I packed the meat tightly, to allow for less air gaps.
The jars I used were from empty Moccona coffee jars, medium sized. They come with their own plastic seal and I’ve used them to jar salted, pickled cherries, bacon oil, etc.
I fried the batch that was in the ziplock bag a few days later, in a little vegetable oil. This was more manageable than manhandling a wok full of meat to dry it out, but the sacrifice was the flavor of the oils from the chicken fat. Maybe if I had reserved the fat… Apparently, you can do that; it’s what Jewish cooking calls schmaltz. Chicken adobo is probably kosher, as long as you don’t do the chicken and pork adobo version; but to be on the safe side, ask your rabbi.
Serve over rice. The meat is concentrated with flavor, so some people might find it rather ‘spicy.’ You can have the meat dried, without frying first.
So, that’s it! I showed my mom the results and she suggests that I try this with beefsteak Filipino, or pork paksiw, which is a sweet-ish savory stew of pork. Feel free to experiment with your food!