The versatility of the Filipino adobo dish transcends many boundaries. From the use of different main ingredients to the incorporation of various condiments, flavorings, sauces and spices, adobo has evolved into becoming a major food tree that comprises many branches and sub-branches. In fact, it is still actively growing and many other variations and kinds are probably being created as we speak.
In addition to the several adobo recipes that I have already shared here like pork adobo version 1 and version 2, beef adobo, chicken adobo in turmeric, fish adobo in coconut milk and even mixed-meat adobo using ox tongue and chicken neck, there is another exciting type of the dish being prepared in the Batangas province of the Southern Luzon Region (Philippines) called “Adobong Batangas”.
Like the “adobong manok sa dilaw”, this variation is quite unique for it does not contain or use soy sauce, a now very basic ingredient in a typical everyday adobo. “Adobong Batangas” is likewise rather unusual for it utilizes a combination of meats; pork, beef and liver as its main ingredients and “atsuete” or annatto seed extract to provide a mild earthy flavor and darker color which the soy sauce usually provides.
In the same tradition as the “Adobong Taal” (referring to Taal, Batangas where it is usually prepared), my version also includes pounded or mashed pork liver (from the same dish after it has tenderized) to develop a richer and an even tastier sauce. But since pork liver is not readily available here in our area in southern Sri Lanka for some reason, I was constrained to use beef liver instead. It may be a little inferior in taste and texture, but it could well serve the purpose nonetheless.
To cook this wonderful dish, we need about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) pork, cut into medium cubes, about ¾ kilogram (1.6 lbs) beef, cut into medium cubes and about 500 grams (1.1 lbs) pork liver but as I said above, I will be using beef liver, also cut into medium cubes. All meat should be properly washed and thoroughly drained.
The other ingredients needed are 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 head garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped, divided, 2 pieces bay leaves, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, ½ to be cracked and ½ to be used whole, ¾ to 1 cup white vinegar (adjust the amount depending on the acidity of the type of vinegar you are using), about 2 tsp salt or to taste and about 4 tbsp annatto seeds or “atsuete”.
In a large thick pan or wok, heat the oil and fry half of the garlic. Add in beef and sauté. Cover and wait for the meat to render its own liquid. Give it a gentle stir and simmer on low heat until the liquid is slightly reduced. Add the cracked and whole pepper corns, salt and vinegar and continue simmering on low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the beef is half tender. Add broth or hot water as necessary, ½ to 1 cup at a time.
Add in pork, beef liver, the remaining garlic and bay leaves. Continue cooking until the pork and liver render their liquid. Continue simmering on low heat with occasional stirring.
Steep the annatto seeds in ½ cup hot water to extract its colour. Discard the seeds and add in the annatto water into the pan. Continue simmering until all the meats are fork tender. Adjust the salt and pepper seasonings. As usual add broth or hot water as necessary.
Turn the heat off. Separate the slightly thick liquid from the meat. Scoop out the oil that floats on the surface if you like. Others love this sinful but flavourful oil in their adobo.
Take out some of the liver pieces and pound or mash them until separated to minute granules. Set aside.
In the same pan, heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Stir-fry the cooked meat with all the garlic bits and pieces. Stir-fry until the meat sizzles and releases an aromatic smell. Return the liquid to the pan and continue simmering. Scrape all the meat bits sticking on the pan surface. Add in mashed liver and simmer for a minute more, until the sauce becomes rich and a little oily.
Transfer in medium plates and serve with lots and lots of steamed rice. You can also eat it with any soft crusty bread. :-)
Try and enjoy this distinctly delicious “Adobong Batangas” dish. It’s rich and tasty. Really yum yum! c“,)