The Origin of Filipino Adobo

There is much debate among hoi polloi about the origins of the Filipino adobo, occasionally dubbed the national dish of the Philippines.

“Hey, the name of the dish is a Spanish word. There’s that verb adobar. It’s a Spanish dish obviously. The Spaniards introduced it during their 400 years of colonial rule in the country.”

CNN recently weighed in and casually declared that the Filipino adobo is of Mexican origin.

Savvier eaters chime in: “There’s soy sauce in it. It has to be from China. The Chinese have been on the islands for at least a thousand years.”

Among food historians and culinary experts though, the consensus is clear: Filipino adobo is Philippine in origin. 

Alam n’yo ba na bago pa man dumating ang mga banyaga sa Pilipinas, karaniwan na nilluluto ng ating mga ninuno ang adobo dahil wala namang pridyider noong araw? Niluluto ang karne sa suka at asin, kasama ng iba’t ibang pangpa-anghang para hindi ito agad masira. Nang dumating ang mga Tsino, natutong gumamit ang mga Pinoy ng toyo mula sa soy beans na dala ng mga dayuhan, sa halip na asin. Ang pangalang adobo ay halaw naman sa wikang Kastilang “adobar” na ang ibig sabihin ay ibabad at lutuin.

Adobo in Spanish is a marinade or seasoning mix. Meat that has been seasoned with adobo mix is described as being adobada.

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, they saw a native cooking process that involved vinegar. The Spanish-language speakers referred to this native dish as “adobo.” And eventually even Filipinos began using the term.