Unforgettably Fatty

There are quite a few food-related stories from my childhood that I have long forgotten, yet have remained firmly entrenched in the memories of the rest of my family (they never fail to remind me, and everyone else, about these supposedly “true” tales).

For instance, one of my aunts claims that I once poked my index finger through an entire carton of eggs that my grandfather just brought back from the market (since there’s no memory of an ass-whoopin’ that my grandpa would have surely given me, I don’t believe this story for one second).

Also, according to my younger brother there was a time that I was so pissed off at him that I allegedly dumped a family serving of shrimp onto my own plate and quickly ate them just so he wouldn’t have any (again, because I have no recollection of the smackdown my shrimp-loving father would have certainly laid upon me had this really happened, I don’t believe this story either. And besides, I wouldn’t have eaten ALL of the shrimp–leaving only one lone shrimp behind sounds more like my style).

And then there’s the yarn that my mom often spins about how when I was a wee lad I used to eat only the chicken skin off of my chicken, or just the pork fat from my pork and not the meat. Although the image of a 5-year old stuffing his face with animal blubber is kind of disturbing, I do have some faint recollection of this actually happening (perhaps because a violent spanking wasn’t involved, I didn’t have to repress anything in the deep recesses of my brain).

Although these memories of fat indulgence were fuzzy at best, they all became crystal-clear after recently making my own adobo from fatty pork belly. After my first bite of jiggly pork fat layered between meat and skin, the memories of my lard eating youth came rushing back like an Anton Ego/Ratatouille-like epiphany.

Needless to say, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten pork belly adobo.


After making pork belly adobo for the first time, I learned a few things: my mother wasn’t making things up (I now really do remember gleefully feasting on fat as a kid), pork belly is wonderfully delicious (duh!), and pork belly is terrifyingly guilt-inducing (you’re ingesting pure FAT!). I mean, I’ve probably never had a better adobo in my life, yet I’ve probably never felt so guilty before either.

As such, my Pork Belly Adobo is taking its rightful place among the dishes of…

The Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique:

To make my pork belly adobo, I took many pointers from The Adobo Book that was gifted to me by Mila some time ago. Many of the pork recipes in this cookbook used pork belly (AKA liempo), all of them claiming that it was the best cut of pork to use for adobo–I now wholeheartedly agree. Also, like many of the pork recipes in The Adobo Book, I decided to use salt instead of soy sauce for this particular dish. Lastly, because pork and apples are a classic pairing, I used apple cider vinegar rather than the more traditional cane or coconut vinegars.


Sim Simma! Who got the keys to my bimma?

After simmering the pork with salt, vinegar, black pepper, bay, and garlic cloves for an hour, the pork belly becomes super lush and melty (“super lush and melty” are technical terms). The collagen in the skin also becomes sticky and breaks down–further enriching the adobo sauce.

Another tip I learned from The Adobo Book is to not stir the contents of the pot until the vinegar is “cooked”, meaning don’t touch until most of the acid has cooked off and the vinegar smells less acrid. I have no idea what stirring an “uncooked” vinegar would do to the finished dish, but who am I to argue?

I then fished out the pork with a slotted spoon, placed the pork on a cookie sheet and then under the broiler.


Brown and crisp

You don’t have to broil the pork if you don’t want to, but I wanted to get some browning and the pork skin crisps up nicely as well.

Despite a true fear of my heart exploding, I couldn’t stop myself from eating wobbly bit after wobbly bit of luscious pork flesh. The crisp skin, luscious fat, and moist meat in each piece of pork belly were a wonderful melding of textures and flavors. As good as the adobo was on the first go-around, it was even better the next day after the leftovers were stored in a container in the fridge and the fat in the sauce had solidified into a protective cap of confit.



Pure, creamy fat.

I should also mention that the Ossabaw pork belly I ordered was superior in flavor to any pork I’ve ever tasted–there was definitely more of a “porky” flavor compared to bland, commercially raised pigs. Also, as you can see from the pictures above, the rendered fat also appeared pristinely pure and white (rather than an icky pale yellow), which was somewhat comforting to me. If the amount of fat in this dish is more than you can handle, you can look for pork belly with more meat than fat, or even use pork shoulder, but what’s the fun in that?

Admittedly, I did discard most of the solidified fat from the sauce the next day before reheating the pork and sauce together. But I did save a couple of tablespoons of the rendered fat and used it to saute a diced apple (just until a little bit soft, but not mushy) and some brown sugar for a sweet and tart accompaniment to the next-day adobo.


Pork and apples

Even though I crisped the skin the day before, the skin in the leftover adobo again became soft and sticky and tender after reheating in the sauce–I preferred this over the crispy skin. The sweet-tart apples (I used winesaps) were a nice addition as well, so much so that I’m tempted to actually throw the diced apples into the sauce, rather than have them on the side, the next time I make pork belly adobo.

In my opinion, there isn’t another cut of meat that melds skin, fat, and meat as perfectly and deliciously as does the underside of a pig. And I don’t think there is a better preparation of pork belly than in a Filipino adobo.

Pork Belly Adobo

Serves Six

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons sea salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds skin-on pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Place the pork belly, garlic, and bay leaves into a large Dutch oven, then pour the vinegar mixture into the pot. Place the pot over high heat, bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.

After one hour, taste sauce for seasoning–adding more salt as needed, or adding water if desired (though I don’t think either is necessary at this point).

(Optional) Remove pork from sauce with a slotted spoon and place pork on a cookie sheet, broil pork until browned–about 2 minutes. Return pork to sauce.

Server over steamed white rice.


The Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique:

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver November 26, 2008, 6:56 pm

    Re your final paragraph (before the recipe: YES and especially YES.
    (Hmm, apples in adobo. Maybe we’ll try that. Although, the adobo with rice is perfect as it is. Dilemna.)

  • Manggy November 26, 2008, 8:07 pm

    Picture number 6 = cross-section of Marvin’s aorta, lol. I was just about to say that maybe the reason you forgot was because the beating made you repress the memory… You beat me to it 😛
    Agreed– no cut better than the belly. I’ll get back to you if I prefer inihaw over adobo. I would probably frustrate you though– I eat around fat. My plate usually is littered with thin strips of the intervening fat between thin strips of meat :)

  • socky November 26, 2008, 8:23 pm

    Hi, Marvin. I’ve been experimenting with adobo lately and was also considering adding tart apples to the mix, except I will grate them.
    Pork belly! The best!

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js November 26, 2008, 10:57 pm

    Pork belly adobo is the way to go! You’re making me crave this so bad.
    And oh, this isn’t a scientific observation but I noticed that among kids 7 and under, they go for the fat with much gusto. Chicken skin, pork belly fat, all that good stuff. Why shouldn’t we be all that innocent again? 😉

  • Katrina November 26, 2008, 11:29 pm

    Wait till Joey sees that photo of the solidified fat! 😉
    Like Manggy, I don’t eat pork fat. It’s not a health thing, I just don’t like the texture. But I’d still agree that using pork belly adds a lot to the flavor of adobo. And I think using apples is a great idea! Fruit and pork go so well together. Some people put pineapples in adobo. I’ve also eaten ripe mango with adobo and rice — the sweetness is perfect with the sour-saltiness of the dish.
    Hmm…first Socky, now you post about this. I think I really will attempt adobo soon. :-)

  • Ning November 27, 2008, 12:03 am

    Hmmm… adobo, the ultimate comfort food! I love the idea of broiling the meat after, though I am too lazy to do that. :)

  • Janice November 27, 2008, 8:19 am

    it’s BEAUTIFUL!
    *slumps down suddenly from seeing the heart attack on a plate*

  • Mila November 27, 2008, 9:29 am

    Isn’t there some German dish that includes apples in roasted/braised pork? You could cook the adobo with beer, apples, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns…. don’t know if toyo would work in something like this. Maybe achuete instead?
    I love that cloud of fat, wow. You really discarded most of it???

  • Efren November 27, 2008, 5:01 pm

    Damn–I could never eat pork belly adobo because of all that fat, but I think after seeing this, I’m tempted to try it. And this is from an Ilokano who loves his fat.

  • Erin November 28, 2008, 7:57 am

    This looks really delicious. I’d totally add the apples to the sauce, that would be fanastic. Man, I love pork belly.

  • Cynthia November 29, 2008, 5:45 am

    I was wondering when next you would have done another in the 5-part pork series you promised. Darn that looks good.

  • greasemonkey November 29, 2008, 7:08 am

    after the broiling, i think this is the perfect synthesis of inihaw and adobo! =)
    i think the reason they don’t want you to stir it is because when you do, the flavor of the vinegar overpowers everything else (‘buhay ang suka’). it’s a common enough thing and i’ve made the mistake a coupla times. hafta wait for the molecular gastronomists to explain it, though (like how you’re not supposed to whisk a butter sauce…).
    i bet your sauce came out like the sauce of patatim, really rich and gooey! yum!
    i know you’re dreading how everybody might go ‘well my adobo’s like this…’
    so, i’ll start. =)
    nothing special, i just like using both pork and chicken meat as well as chicken liver and heart. the liver adds both texture and another layer of flavor to the sauce, imho. instead of broiling, i pan fry the meat midway then simmer it in the sauce afterwards.
    =) thanks for the post! xenical?

  • Krizia November 29, 2008, 9:58 am

    I hate you! I don’t eat pork now, but you made me remember my childhood when I partook in the sin that is fatty pork adobo. If I weren’t in NY right now, I’d be in a bowl of this deliciousness, gorging myself.
    Hope you had a happy thanksgiving holiday!

  • Jude November 29, 2008, 10:28 am

    Haha.. Looking forward to the rest of your series.
    Your post reminds me of a phrase that always cracks me up for some reason — “kwentong barbero” or barber’s stories. It’s a nicer way to label something as bs.

  • Burnt Lumpia November 29, 2008, 4:23 pm

    Thanks ts! And just do what I did, make one version without the apples, then add the apples to the leftovers the next day;)
    I’d probably eat the fat off of your plate, manggy, if we sat next to each other.
    Hi socky! Grating the apples sounds like a wonderful idea. They’d be less visible in the sauce, but still with all the flavor.
    Agreed, js. We should all just start eating fat again!
    I actually had pork adobo with pineapple when I was in the Philippines, Katrina. Though it wasn’t pork belly it was still awesome with the pineapples.
    Hi Ning. Broiling isn’t necessary, but it adds a nice color to the pork.
    Haha, thanks Janice!
    I did discard most of the solidified fat, mila. Though I did use some of it to saute the apples. I felt really bad about having that much fat in the sauce when there was still more than enough fat still in the pork itself.
    Hi Efren! It’s definitely worth trying the pork belly at least once, it’s not like you’d eat like this all the time.
    Thanks Erin. Pork belly is my new favorite!
    Thanks cynthia. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t forget about this series, and I’ve got more coming.
    The sauce was really rich and gooey, greasemonkey. Very tasty! And I don’t mind people telling me how they make their adobo. Your version with chicken liver sounds awesome.
    You don’t eat pork anymore, Krizia? That’s a damn shame! I hope you had a great thanksgiving in New York.
    Haha, thanks Jude. I’ll use “kwentong barbero” next time I think my mom is making something up;)

  • Mary: The Novice Cook November 29, 2008, 8:29 pm

    Sisig and adobo, yum.

  • greasemonkey November 30, 2008, 5:50 am

    =) can’t wait for the rest of the series. got some liempo today! yeba!

  • gaga November 30, 2008, 11:55 am

    pork belly is the best stuff ever! this looks wonderful

  • elmomonster December 1, 2008, 7:48 am

    Oh I like where you’re going with this. Brilliant theming!

  • oggi December 1, 2008, 8:49 am

    Oh yes, fatty pork belly adobo! Yum yum.
    BTW, I finally got a copy of The Adobo Book and have already cooked a few.

  • Jeano December 1, 2008, 9:13 am

    This looks luscious! I have a source of Ossabaw pork where I live (NC). Must order pork belly!

  • joey December 2, 2008, 6:04 am

    Oh MY! That looks divine! Yes, pork belly is the best cut, in my humble opinion, for adobo — and for many other things as well. Big fan of pork belly here!!! 😉 Even when I put chicken in my adobo I make sure there’s some pork belly in it too…not only is it mind-blowingly delicious, it also, as you mentioned above, adds its lusciousness to the sauce! You just can’t achieve the same thing without it!
    I can imagine the apples being perfect with this…go ahead and add it in the next time! When I make adobo with lamb I add pears so I’m sure the apples will work perfectly :)
    I’m going to try that broiler step one of these days…
    Love the color of the chilled fat! You lucky lucky Ossabaw owning person!

  • Burnt Lumpia December 2, 2008, 3:53 pm

    Hi Mary. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    I agree gaga, thanks!
    Thanks elmo.
    Hi oggi, it’s a great little cookbook isn’t? There are so many adobo recipes!
    If you can find it, jeano, you should definitely get your hands on some ossabaw.
    Hey there joey. I’ve definitely fallen in love with pork belly! I honestly don’t think there’s anything better.

  • Veronica Perez December 3, 2008, 5:34 am

    Unforgettable alright. I read this during Thanksgiving weekend and knew I had to read it again. thanks for the source of pork belly , I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before I place my own order.

  • foodhoe December 3, 2008, 12:52 pm

    Wow, those pictures are absolutely stunning! I especially love the one with the layer of solidified fat, and was riveted by your descriptives: super lush and melty as well as the greatly under-used wobbly…

  • Julie December 4, 2008, 9:49 am

    I waaant. That looks so good! I’ve never cooked pork belly, but if I do, I hope it’s some good-quality stuff. Now to make me some good-quality money to have some shipped my way. 😉

  • elle311 December 5, 2008, 7:42 am

    Hi Marvin,
    So glad I found your wonderful blog! The first pic is so incredibly beautiful that my mouth is watering as I am writing this! I am going to have to call my Dad to beg and plead that he make me some!
    Also love your witty posts. I find myself shaking my head at things that could’ve been written by me as part of a large Filipino family and laughing out loud 😉 Looking forward to following your cooking adventures!

  • manju December 6, 2008, 2:50 pm

    I just happen to have 5 lbs. of pork belly in the fridge because I was going to make Okinawan rafute, but now I will have to divert 2 lbs to try this adobo. You killed me with the crispy skin part, I have to try that!
    Okinawan rafute has the same melty soft, can’t stop eating it, quality that you describe in this adobo. I think you would really it… but maybe give your arteries a break before you try it… : )

  • MeSoHorny December 6, 2008, 7:00 pm

    DON’T THROW OUT THE FAT!!!! Use it to make adobo fried rice the next day.

  • Burnt Lumpia December 7, 2008, 1:49 pm

    Thanks veron. I’m sure you’ll be happy with the pork belly if you order it.
    Thanks foodhoe. Solidified fat is always amazing;)
    Hi Julie. You can find pork belly at Asian markets, you don’t have to have it shipped to you.
    Hello Elle311. I’m glad you found my blog and I hope you visit often.
    I’ve never heard of rafute before manju. I look forward to you posting about it.
    Thanks for the tip, mesohorny!

  • Estrella Chauls December 29, 2008, 8:00 am

    apples and adobo? Sounds strange but intersting. Instead of broiling Mama fries the meat. Also she made chicken and pork and marinated them overnight.
    My hubby, non-Filipino, loves my adobo and I improvise a lot, like marinating overnight, using pickling spice and sometimes adding fried onions before serving! Other times, I use “gata” instead of water.

  • Joy January 27, 2009, 6:53 am

    you are funny…. my youngest just eats the pork skin and crispy chicken skin as well :0)

  • martingale March 13, 2009, 8:28 am

    Hi Burnt Lumpia,
    I must say I have never thought of using apple cider vinegar myself. Being in NY, it’s quite an excursion to go get cane vinegar from the Filipino store. I have discovered that red wine vinegar works really yummy, more palatable to the non-Filipinos too.

  • Gourmet Mama June 28, 2009, 12:29 am

    I’m really glad I came across your blog. I’ve always loved Filipino food. I especially love pork adobo. I am going to try out your version of it. I must admit though, the photos look amazing.

  • juris August 12, 2009, 11:29 pm

    where is the soy sauce in this?

  • chikee December 8, 2009, 9:51 pm

    hi! you should not stir the adobo until the vinegar is cooked to avoid making the taste of the vinegar dominant in your adobo… that’s the explanation of my grandma. i’m from vigan by the way. thanks for featuring my place in your site.

  • Aljur - Sikat ang Pinoy January 13, 2010, 7:26 pm

    waaaa. sarap naman nito.. nakaka gutom. thanks for the share.. am salivating na.


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