Tofu and Mushroom Adobo
Adobo has often been argued to be the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. There are said to be as many ways to make adobo as there are Filipino households, though precious few of them are vegan. Like many coastal Asian cuisines, a large percentage of Filipino dishes include some quantity of meat, fish, or both. I came up with this recipe for a birthday dinner for Ayana’s mother. She spent two years in the Philippines with the Peace Corps when she was younger, and loves adobo, but for this birthday dinner she did not want to eat any meat. While it may not be the most traditional adobo out there, this mushroom and tofu adobo is a delicious vegan alternative, which might just have you skipping the meat next time too.
So, what is adobo?
The name adobo is derived from the Spanish adobar, which means to marinate or pickle. This name was first applied in the early 17th century by Spanish colonists who were writing about a common vinegar-stewed dish. They referred to it as “adobo de los naturales,” which translates to “native’s adobo,” a reference to the Spanish adobo dishes with which they were more familiar. In what has been referred to as a moment of “lexical imperialism,” this Spanish name stuck for a dish that is decidedly not of Spanish origin.
Like sour dishes of many cultures, including the fermented fish dish which led to the creation of sushi, adobo originated primarily as a way to keep food from spoiling in the tropical climate of the Philippines. Like pickling, stewing meats with vinegar and salt allows them to keep longer and travel better without refrigeration. It also creates a delicious salty and sour dish to eat with rice.
There are many ways to make adobo, and this recipe is based on a traditional chicken adobo. But while adobo can be saucy like this, it can equally be dry like a stir-fry. It can include coconut milk, or be made with different vinegars. It is even now sold in flake form.
Adobo is undoubtedly versatile, and I hope that you enjoy this vegan version.
Tofu and Mushroom Adobo
1 box firm tofu
12 oz. crimini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced
1 large serrano pepper, sliced thin
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce or brown sugar
¾ cup soy sauce
½ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
Make a marinade with the soy, sweet soy, vinegar, garlic, serrano, pepper, and bay leaves. Marinate the mushrooms for 30 minutes.
Drain the tofu and slice it into bite-sized pieces. Dry it with a paper towel and coat it with cornstarch, then pan fry in a neutral oil over medium-high heat. Once golden brown and crispy on the outside, set aside to drain.
Cook the onion in a large pot over medium-high heat with a splash of oil until fragrant, then add the marinade and mushrooms to the pot. Allow the marinade to reduce slightly (5 min), then add the tofu. Reduce the sauce for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Serve with rice.