A taste of 1920’s Chicken Adobo
The taste of the humble adobo differs on who cooks it and how it is cooked. The quintessential dish also has numerous versions depending where the person who prepared it comes from.
In Aurora, an ancestral house-turned restaurant in the town of Santa Cruz, Laguna, business partners and chefs Mon Urbano and Day Salonga recreated a post-colonial recipe by Isidra Guevarra (wife of former Senator Pedro Guevarra).
In a cooking demo, Chef Mon heated up his stove and gave the heirloom recipe a modern twist. In a pot, he put half a dozen of chicken wings, poured a cup of water, and added vinegar, pepper, and salt.
“Let us wait for 20 minutes to let it simmer until the water is gone,” he beamed to the curious crowd and gave them a second look, “Yes, no soy sauce.”
He set the pot aside, and just like what we see in live cooking shows, the kitchen master came up with a bowl of cooked chicken wings in one hand and a bowl of flour in the other. On the counter, he proceeded to demonstrate how to coat the chicken thinly with flour.
“The secret of this recipe is to make the chicken look golden brown, that’s when you know it’s going to be crispy,” the chef says while dipping the flour-coated chicken wings into the boiling oil.
After frying the chicken, he plated it and topped it with toasted garlic, “And that’s how you cook a post-colonial adobo,” he exclaimed with pride.
True enough, the chicken was crispy outside, the meat moist and juicy with just a little hint of saltiness and sourness. If you had not seen how it was prepared you’d think you were sinking your teeth into a specially marinated chicken fried to perfection.
Just like its signature chicken adobo, Aurora promotes Southern Tagalog cuisine highlighting the unfamiliar yet worth discovering Laguna way of cooking that can put the province on the culinary map apart from our favorite Espasol and Buko Pie.
In a recent gastronomical and historical tour organized by San Miguel Pure Foods Culinary Center, Aurora was one of the noted places visited by food and travel writers. It’s the tour’s second stop.
At the restaurant, dinner was served and the entrée included fresh alamang sauté with chunky Monterey Pork pieces; Crispy Adobong Tadyang na Bakang Angus, Pancit Chami (stir-fried fresh egg noodles).
The meal was capped off with Minanok (banana heart cooked in burnt coconut cream served with maruya) and Tinuto (minced shrimps and coconut meat wrapped in taro leaves with rich coconut cream sauce).
The first pit stop was the charming town of Pila, which a lot of tourists refer to as “The Vigan of Laguna.” While many parts of the country have foregone the past in exchange for rapid advancement, Pila has preserved its historical structures. The town plaza, surrounding structures, and centuries-old houses owned by pioneering clans of the town were declared by the National Historical Institute as a National Historical Landmark in May 2000.
One of these houses is the Corazon Rivera House being maintained by her granddaughter Cora Relova. The amiable host welcomed guests with local snacks such as Puto with Kesong Puti, Maja Blanca, and fresh buko juice. She also gave a tour of the houses and other structures around the town plaza, including the Diocesan Shrine of Saint Anthony.
The scribes’ third stop in their itinerary started at Sulyap Gallery Cafe in San Pablo City, a charming bed and breakfast that served as the participants’ residence for their night in Laguna before they embarked on another day of culinary journey.
The second day of the tour began with breakfast. There was a Magnolia Pancake station; a Magnolia Egg station; a buffet consisting of Sulyap’s fried Bangus and Pork Taper, sauteed Purefoods Corned Beef; and deep-fried Purefoods Honeycured Bacon. San Mig Coffee’s different variants (Barako and Strong Sugar-free) were also served to energize participants for the activities ahead.
After breakfast, the tour brought the participants to the scenic Sampaloc Lake, the largest of seven lakes in San Pablo City. Refreshments and snacks were served at Cafe Lago, a quaint cafe that gives a magnificent view of the lake, not to mention a cool breeze because of its elevation. Its owners, siblings Tony and Mandy Marino, are advocates of the lake’s rehabilitation and named their cafe after the Italian word for lake, lago.
According to Tony, it was actually friends who prodded the siblings to start a restaurant in their ancestral home near the lake seven years ago while the rehabilitation was in full swing. Although hesitant at first, they gave in and started Cafe Lago which serves not only as their culinary venture but also a place that allows guests to appreciate the beauty of the lake.
For lunch, Cafe Lago served their best-seller—Buttered Chicken made special with Star Margarine and pako salad. The participants were also treated to fried halo-halo topped with Magnolia Vanilla Ice Cream. Laguna’s version of bibingka made with coconut meat, Star Margarine, and Magnolia Cheezee was served on our way home.