As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Adobo is the Filipino method for cooking anything in a mixture of vinegar, salt (and/or soy), garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaf. Any good Filipino adobo should have that perfect balance of tang and saltiness. Now mind you, this "balance" of vinegar and salt is purely subjective of course. But having prepared a few different adobos for this blog, I’ve been able to refine my palate bit by bit and have begun to develop my own preference for what a good adobo should taste like.
As such, I can now crank out a delicious pot of chicken adobo at the drop of a hat with nary a glance at any printed recipe. Preparing chicken adobo has become second nature to me. The problem with this though, is that I was becoming a one-trick pony.
To me, knowing how to cook only chicken adobo is like knowing only one kind of dance. Sure, the Running Man may make you the life of the party for maybe the first couple of songs, but after awhile, the once-awed crowd will realize that the Running Man is pretty basic and they’ll surely stop yelling your name and telling you it’s your birthday.
What’s that you say? Nobody does the Running Man anymore? Really? OK, how about the Cabbage Patch? No, again? Crap.
Alright, so maybe I’m horribly out of touch with the moves of today’s house party goers, but you get the point right? There are many other types of adobo besides that of the chicken variety. Yes, I’ve made a pork ribs adobo before, but the procedure for that recipe is essentially the same for any chicken adobo recipe. I wanted to try something else. And since chicken and pork were done, the next logical adobo for me to try was squid adobo, or Adobong Pusit as it’s known in the Philippines. And, depending on where you are in the Philippines, squid adobo may actually be more popular than chicken or pork.
If chicken adobo is akin to the Running Man, then Squid adobo is like the Kid ‘n Play–awesome when done right, but downright grotesque otherwise. As such, learning to cook squid adobo is like learning to do the Kid ‘n Play–dedicate enough time to either activity and you are bound to impress all the ladies (well, at least the ones that enjoy adobo and/or cutting a rug).
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof…
Ah, House Party. It’s a classic.
I may have been out of touch with my whole Running Man analogy, but when expressing themselves through the majesty of dance, I’m sure the youngsters of today are still working in a little bit of that ol’ kick step! And how!
What?!! The Superman? What the hell is that?
Anyhoo, before putting my Adobong Pusit together, I first had to figure out how to clean whole squid. I’ve never worked with squid before, so I was a bit worried about that aspect.
Most, if not all, of the squid adobos I’ve eaten in the past consisted of squid tentacles and whole squid bodies (as opposed to the body being cut into rings). But I wanted my adobo to be as easy to eat as possible, so I decided to cut the squid bodies into rings.
Then there’s the issue of the squid ink. Traditionally, squid ink is added to the adobo to enrich and darken the sauce.
If you’ve got the time, you can harvest the squid’s ink sack from its entrails by gently pulling away the dark, vein-like sack with a knife. You can then add these harvested ink sacks to the adobo. Ideally, squid ink shouldn’t emit any off flavors or smells–the fresher the squid the better the squid ink.
Although cleaning squid does take a bit of time, it turns out that squid is actually very easy to clean and prepare. All you have to do is grab it by the head and…
Hey, you smell something? I do. I smell, I smell, I smell PUSIT!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you clean and disassemble a squid! Full Force!
After taking apart a couple of pounds of squid, the rest of the squid adobo process is quick and easy since the whole shebang cooks relatively fast. It should be noted that cooking squid can be a bit tricky. If squid is cooked quickly (a couple of minutes), it will turn out very tender. If squid is cooked long and slow (over an hour), it will also still turn out very tender. But when squid is cooked somewhere between the range of a couple of minutes and an hour (say 5-50 minutes or so), then you’ve got some rubbery and chewy calamari on your hands. Strange, but true. So, for very tender squid, cook for only a few minutes or for more than an hour, nothing in between!
Since I cut up my squid, I stuck to the quick cooking method for my Adobong Pusit recipe. Compared to the other adobos I’ve tackled previously, this squid adobo is by far the easiest I’ve yet to prepare. I find that caramelizing some onions and adding a bit of brown sugar provide just enough sweetness to balance out the vinegar and soy. And after cooking the squid for only a few minutes, the tentacles and rings are rendered very tender, yet still retain a nice difference in texture.
The finished squid adobo was so dang tasty even my wife was impressed. But for some reason she refuses to go dancing with me. Strange, that.
Squid Adobo (Adobong Pusit)
2 lbs. fresh whole squid
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2/3 cup distilled vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
squid ink (optional)
Clean the squid, separate the tentacles, and cut the bodies into 1-inch thick rings. Harvest the squid ink by removing the ink sacks and placing in a small container. Cover squid and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the onions and saute until edges start to brown and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, bay leaves, and sugar and continue to cook for 1 minute more.
Add the vinegar, soy, water, and ink (if desired) to the pan, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until sauce is slightly reduced, about 15-20 minutes.
Add the the squid to the pan, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until squid is tender. Remove from heat and serve immediately over steamed rice.