As I’ve demonstrated a few times within this space, the Filipino cooking method of Adobo is quite versatile. So far I’ve made duck adobo, pork ribs adobo, squid adobo, and two kinds of chicken adobo. While all of these adobos have leaned towards the protein side of the meal, all manner of vegetable adobos can be prepared as well.
Yup, you can pretty much adobo-ize anything so long as you braise it in a mixture of vinegar, salt and/or soy, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.
One very common vegetable adobo is Adobong Kangkong. Kangkong, also known as rau muong in Vietnam or ong choy in China, is a leafy green vegetable eaten all over Asia. Kangkong have long hollow stems, and long, narrow, pointy leaves. Both the stems and leaves are edible.
I’m not sure what kind of conditions kangkong is grown, but based on its aquatic-sounding aliases (AKA water spinach or swamp leaves) I imagine the greens are grown in shallow swamps or marshes? So if I’m ever being chased by the cops, a swarm of killer bees, or legions of screaming teenaged girls (this blog is HUGE amongst the tweener set), I know I can dive into a kangkong bog and hide beneath the surface of the water whilst easily breathing through a hollow kangkong stem–thereby evading any crazed pursuers.
Wherever or however kangkong is cultivated, it can be easily procured from most Asian markets. To make Adobong Kangkong, just pick the leaves from the stems, cut the stems into small pieces, and then saute everything with onions, garlic and a bay leaf, add some soy, vinegar, and water to the pot, and simmer until the veggies are soft.
If for some reason you don’t like kangkong (it more or less tastes like spinach), or if you can’t find kangkong in your neck of the woods, there are suitable substitutes. Who on earth wouldn’t like kangkong you ask? Well, it seems as if one Mr. Denzel Washington is picky when it comes to his Adobo:
Relax, Denzel. Relax.
Ah, Training Day. It’s a classic. And yes, I know he’s referring to a giant ape in that scene, but it makes me giggle to think he’s talking about water spinach (I’m easily amused).
Anyhizzle, I actually stumbled across a great recipe that uses bacon and kale instead of kangkong. Yes, a Bacon and Kale Adobo if you will.
I found the Bacon and Kale Adobo recipe in the October issue of Sunset Magazine of all places. Even cooler is that the recipe was provided to Sunset courtesy of Fil-Am chef Tim Luym of the Poleng Lounge restaurant in San Francisco (I absolutely love it when Filipino food gets mainstream coverage!). Sunset also happens to be the same magazine from where I got my go-to chicken adobo recipe. Needless to say, the Bacon and Kale Adobo is as good as it sounds.
I actually made a version of Kangkong Adobo based on the recipe for Bacon and Kale Adobo just to see if the Sunset recipe could translate to the more traditional Filipino vegetable–and it did. The only major difference I found between cooking kangkong and kale is that kangkong cooks much more quickly (lickety-split) and needs less water to do so. I also left the bacon out of the kangkong version just to have an all veggie dish (and because I ran out of bacon).
In the Adobong Kangong, the crunchy stems provide a nice difference in texture to the soft leaves. In the case of the Bacon and Kale Adobo, it’s the crispy bacon that provides this textural difference, as well as porky goodness.
After making both dishes, I’d have to say I prefer the more westernized Bacon and Kale adobo (egads!) just because I’ve always liked the flavor and heartiness of kale, and I’ve never really liked kangkong stems.
Truth be told though, I’ll probably make an Adobong Kangkong with bacon in the future (Kangkong ain’t got sh*t on me!!!).
Adobong Kangkong (Water Spinach Adobo)
Adapted from Bacon and Kale Adobo recipe in Sunset, October 2008
Makes about 4 servings
1 pound of Kangkong (water spinach can be found in Asian markets)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut or palm vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Wash the kangkong, then pick the leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into 2-inch pieces and set aside in a separate pile from the leaves.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the kangkong stems, onions, garlic, and bay leaves to the pan and cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the kangkong leaves and continue cooking and stirring until the leaves are wilted, about 1 minute.
Add the water, 2 tablespoons each of the soy and vinegar, the black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and steam for 5-10 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to your liking. Remove the cover and stir to combine. Add more soy and vinegar to taste.