With Filipino chefs promoting the country's culinary delicacies, global perceptions about Filipino food are slowly changing.
Apart from the Philippines’ pristine beaches, the country continues to arouse interest and curiosity for its food. And one of the most popular Filipino dishes is the adobo, which you'll find in every Filipino restaurant menu.
While Filipino cuisine still has a long way to go, chefs like Morris Danzen Catanghal are willing to put in the work. He is the head chef of La Bottega del Porto in Sicily owned by his wife’s family.
Catanghal introduced the fusion of Filipino and Sicilian cuisine which eventually became a hit among their customers. He uses fresh, local ingredients for his dishes that are grown and produced directly in his town, along with Filipino products, which he buys from an Asian supermarket nearby.
The 30-year-old chef wants Filipino dishes to take the spotlight on the international stage. He serves adobo sa gata, barbecue, ensaladang talong, and kinilaw in a food country like Italy where food preparation and presentation is sacred.
“I really want to showcase our Filipino cuisine in my own way here in Sicily and internationally, of course,” Catanghal said.
When asked if there should be a standard adobo recipe, Catanghal believes that every cook or chef has his own version of adobo which makes it unique and that there is no perfect recipe for the whole country.
“There are those who add soy sauce to darken the color of the dish and those who prefer to avoid it. Each province of the Philippines has its own variant. Each family has its own variations, passed down from generation to generation,” Catanghal pointed out.
A hearty meal
Whether it's chicken or pork, you'd have a hard time finding an Italian who doesn't love chef Dario Guevarra’s adobo sa dahon. The tasty dish with a strong flavor is a favorite not only among Italian locals but also among international customers who flock to Guevarra's Mabuhay Restaurant in Milan.
While Guevarra does not follow a standard way of cooking adobo, he said that the important thing is to cook it with garlic, soy sauce, bay leaves, and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, plain and simple. The Milan-based chef obviously has his own version that involves the addition of a special ingredient and some theatrics, such as the burning of banana leaves which gives a subtle flavor to his rice dishes.
“Adobo is a hearty meal for dinner, lunch, and even breakfast, both at home and in restaurants. I am happy that Italians enjoy it, although I had to tweak it a little bit to pass the Italian taste. Nevertheless, it’s our bestseller,” shared Guevarra.
Guevarra’s Mabuhay Restaurant is currently the number one in Milan out of more than 6,000 restaurants according to Trip Advisor. It has also received the Traveler’s Choice Awards for two consecutive years.
Adobo has also been featured in an article by Gambero Rosso, an Italian multimedia food and wine publishing group as the Philippines' most famous dish and how chefs are building a Filipino way to modern cuisine.
Even the famous TV presenter and cookbook author Benedetta Parodi fell in love with adobo as cooked by her Filipina helper.
“I have never eaten this before and it’s really really good. We love adobo. I’m gonna learn [to prepare] it,” she said.