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Chicken Adobo Tacos, and a confession.

Ford Island

OK. I have a confession to make. I lived in Hawai’i for almost 3 years…and hated it. Well, not completely, but mostly. The reasons are too numerous to list here, but I will tell you that the tropical heat and humidity topped the list. There were a few things I miss about the place. Ford Island, where I lived. For those of you who know your history, that is the site of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. I love that era, so walking among American history every day was a privilege and a thrill. I was a 5 minute walk from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. I could still make out the strafe marks on the runway made by Japanese bullets. I worked in a building that suffered slight shrapnel damage from a bomb. I was also a short drive from many other historical site on the island. A little Territorial Airwaves and I could almost imagine being there…

Strafe marks from 1941

As you can imagine, I also miss some of the food. I will occasionally make myself the parts of plate lunches I miss: loco moco, chicken katsu, or teri beef. Piled on a scoop of rice, all that’s missing is mac salad. And what about haupia, Dixie’s pineapple sour cream pie, or mochi ice cream? Oh, what I would do for a Leonard’s malasada! And I miss Filipino food. Pancit, lumpia, adobo. Ubiquitous when one thinks of Filipino food, but for a reason. The stuff is good. I used to be a Navy wife, so I lived and worked around a lot of Filipinos. I could get my fill any time a gathering took place.

Now I am in western Ohio. Not a huge Filipino population around here. Not much of anything around here. So I finally broke down and decided to make one of my Filipino favorites: chicken adobo. Chicken adobo is vinegary, sweet and salty. It’s often braised in a simple marinade and served over rice. I have no rice. So I made tacos. A bit of a twist on the classic, but with that same taste I remember. I think I hear a slack-key in the distance…

Chicken Adobo Tacos

adapted from

  • 2 lb chicken pieces (I used thighs)
  • 1 head garlic, coarsely chopped (yep, the whole thing)
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c vinegar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cabbage slaw (technique below)
  • 6 in. flour tortillas

Put vinegar, soy sauce, water, broth, pepper and bay leaves in a heavy bottom pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic until just brown and, with a slotted spoon, remove to pot of marinade.  In the same skillet, turn the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken pieces, 5 minutes on each side. Stir the brown sugar into the pot of marinade. Place chicken pieces in the pot and simmer, partly covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Set chicken aside to cool. Strain the solids out of the sauce and discard.

Meanwhile, make a simple cabbage slaw: toss 1/4 head of finely shredded cabbage with 5-6 shredded radishes and 3 sliced scallions. Sprinkle in 1 tsp sugar. Toss with 2 Tbsp rice vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to hold together.


Shred chicken meat and place in a bowl with just enough sauce to moisten. (I boiled the sauce a little to reduce it.) Place about 1/4 c each chicken and slaw in the center of a warmed tortilla. Turn on some vintage hula music and enjoy.