In Memories of Philippine Kitchens, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan say that if you have to master a Filipino recipe, it has to be adobo. Adobo in Spanish-speaking countries refers to the oil, garlic and vinegar flavor. Each country has added its own touch to it, whether they be black peppercorns, marjoram or bay leaves, but if you ask a non-Filipino about a Filipino food they’ve tried and liked, adobo is most likely their answer.
It’s hard to get my father to teach me how he cooks his own version, since he cooks by tasting the dish until it’s just right. When Dexter and Jaime gave me a copy of the new book from the Cendrillon founders, I tried their baby back ribs recipe. I’ve cooked adobo before, but I have to say that they got it right in terms of measurements–all I had to do was double everything to feed four people a couple of servings apiece. I’m going to use this recipe as my own from now on.
3 racks of baby back ribs, about 4 pounds
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
8 garlic cloves, minced
6 bay leaves
2 tsps black peppercorns
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsps rock salt
1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and the peppercorns until they are coarsely grounded. Rub the ribs with salt, and then with the garlic and peppercorns mixture.
2. In a Dutch oven, mix vinegar, soy sauce, chili flakes and bay leaves using a wooden spoon. Add the ribs and marinate overnight, turning the ribs at least once so that the other side also gets some of the flavor.
3. When ready to cook, put Dutch oven over medium fire, uncovered, and let boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour to cook the ribs. Remove ribs to a baking dish when done. Reduce the sauce by increasing the heat and cooking it, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the sauce has somewhat thickened.
4. Broil the ribs for about 8 minutes, enough to give the top part a crust. Transfer to a plate and pour over the reduced sauce. Serve with steaming white rice.