The Philippines are an ethnic melting pot, having been a trade hub since prehistoric times. Filipino cooking reflects this diverse history, with indigenous, Arab, Asian and Spanish influences coming together to create something new... and entirely delicious.
Healthy Filipino Food
I was introduced to Filipino food by a partner, with whom I spent several years. Family gatherings were always centered around food--mounds and mounds of it. My first impressions were that every dish involved a lot of fat, from deep-fried lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) to fried rice, to lechon (whole roasted pig). But as I began to learn to cook Filipino foods at home, I discovered that there are many Filipino recipes that are traditionally low in fat, or can be easily made so.
Two of my favorites include Adobo (chicken or pork stewed slowly in a marinade)and Pancit (a stir-fried noodle dish). My personal recipes, adapted from those given me by the matriarch of the family are below. I may no longer live with a Filipino partner, but I certainly still eat the food!
Low-Fat Adobo Recipe
Adobo is a very simple dish involving slow-cooking meat (either pork or chicken, sometimes a mix of both) in a marinade. Chicken adobo is traditionally made with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks, but I make it with boneless skinless breasts to reduce the fat. Once you read the recipe once, you probably won't need to look at it again, because the proportions are so simple. This recipe will serve 6-8 people. Leftovers keep well, but if you'd prefer to make a smaller batch, you can easily divide the recipe in half.
- 3-4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or pork chop/loin
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- vegetable oil
Press garlic and crush or rough-grind peppercorns. Cut meat into 1- or 2-inch cubes. In a large pot, mix together water, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns. Add whole chicken breasts, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, then add soy sauce and continue simmering (still covered) another 20 minutes. At this point, if you're saving some for leftovers, set that portion aside (both broth and meat) to cool to room temperature, before transferring to an air-tight container and placing in the fridge.
If not, or with the portion you are planning to fix that night, remove the chicken from the broth and allow broth to continue to cook boil, uncovered, until it is reduced by half (about 10 minutes, if you're making the whole recipe) to make the sauce. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, heat a little bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of a frying pan, and brown your meat cubes. Skim any fat off the top of your broth/sauce and remove bay leaves, then add to the frying pan with browning chicken to reheat. Serve over rice.
Easy Pancit Recipe
Pancit is a stir-fried noodle dish vaguely reminiscent of pad thai or chow mein, but with a very distinct flavor. You can make it with chicken or pork, or a mix of both, as well as shrimp, depending on your tastes. You can also improvise with your favorite veggies, or whatever you have on hand. The key here is reusing a small amount of oil for maximum taste and minimum fat. This will make about 4 servings, and goes wonderfully with low-fat spring rolls.
- 1 8-oz package thin rice noodles
- 1 lb lean meat (pork or chicken), cubed to about 1 inch
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and shredded or grated
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 green onions, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
- vegetable oil
Put your rice noodles in a bowl with warm water and let sit until softened to al dente. Drain, cut to reasonable length (between 4 and 6 inches), and set aside. Add a small amount of oil to the bottom of a frying pan and heat. Add meat cubes and brown. Remove from pan (retaining oil), and mix with soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. To reserved oil in pan, add cabbage, celery, and carrots, and sauté until tender (cabbage and celery will start to turn clear). Add noodles, shrimp, and green onions and continue to cook until noodles reach desired consistancy. Mix in meat with soy sauce and continue cooking about 5 more minutes, stirring to combine. Serve and enjoy!
Botwin Allison from Miami on January 25, 2012:
I love Filipino food.I've been on vacation there a year ago and since I can't get enough of chicken adobo.
archiedelara on November 13, 2011:
Thanks for sharing the goodness of cooking Filipino foods.
Travel Chef from Manila on October 17, 2011:
I ate chicken adobo last night! LOL I enjoy eating Filipino dishes. Any kind of dish actually, its one of my favorite cuisine.
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on September 18, 2011:
Being a Filipina, I love eating chicken adobo and pancit (usually found in birthdays). Thanks for sharing this low fat alternative way of cooking Maddie. I was smiling thinking how you learn all these from a Filipino partner. :) Love and light...
Lianne on August 10, 2011:
Wow, thanks for the information. The details were very informative and comprehensive. :)
happypuppy on August 09, 2011:
A friend of mine cooked chicken Adobo for me. I liked it. Thanks for the recipe; it's easy to follow.
marpauling on May 24, 2011:
Thanks for the good recipe.
Filipino Recipes Lover on March 01, 2011:
Filipino adobo is my favorite filipino dish. I like it very spicy. This new recipe that i just found on this site is going to help me with my weight loss whiles I enjoy my favorite filipino food. Thanks for sharing.
jen on February 26, 2011:
it's good to have a cholesterol free adobo. nice.
Jestonii on November 16, 2010:
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2010:
I have Filipino friends and they cook the most delicious dishes and love sharing their cooking! This is a page that will be bookmarked. I love the easy and low fat aspect as well.
theherbivorehippi from Holly, MI on September 07, 2010:
I am eating pancit right now! lol My aunt was married to a Filipino so her two children are half and she makes the most delicious pancit and refuses to give me the recipe.....looks like I will have to try this one! (without the meat products of course!) Thanks for this!
M_Marti on August 27, 2010:
My Fiancé is filipina, she cooks wonderful phillipino food. Its high in calories though. I had to tell her to stop cooking for awhile so I could shed some pounds. haha
M G on July 07, 2010:
hmm...sounds delicious... :)
Barbara C from Andalucia, Spain on May 26, 2010:
thanks for this - my late uncle married a Filipina lady and she showed me how to cook pork adobo but I sadly forgot the recipe - she also made Lumpah which were sooo amazing !!!!
Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on May 10, 2010:
I tried this. It turned out yummy. Thanks
borge_009 from Philippines on May 05, 2010:
Wow I like adobo and Pancit. Thanks for sharing this. I have been always cooking adobo but I am not fully satisfied of the output. Thanks I will try using this recipe
csnap on May 04, 2010:
i like filo food :D
Ayan Deato on January 14, 2010:
Good job sharing this... Adobo is my specialty... this is the basic way to cook Adobo. There are other ways depending where you are from in the Philippines. Filipinos abroad also try to change the procedure and some ingredients depending on where they are in the world. I heard some try using turkey or lamb instead of the usual pork or chicken. You can also try adding potatoes to the dish to make it a complete meal. If you want it a bit spicy you can add chili or pepper. :)
alex on December 16, 2009:
hmm, foreigners love pinoy dishes ha, its good, i'm a filipino, and i love cooking all of these filipino cuisines... yummy and sometimes tempting, especially karekare, my number one fave and adobo
blbhhdcn on October 22, 2009:
ur'e very correct on this maddie. I missed the food back home. I love pancit. i always cook it here. Im a Filipino. Love this recipes
Gift Experts on August 22, 2009:
Good information in your article...
alwaysabridesmaid on August 22, 2009:
Thanks for healthful ideas....
Ashley Joy on August 12, 2009:
Thanks for sharing these. I love asian dishes but I know each area has its own distinct flavors. I have been wanting to try Filipino.
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on August 04, 2009:
These sound great. I've never had Filipino food and would love to give these a try.
naiza1986 on July 30, 2009:
This is so amazing! I had already eaten those Filipino food you had mentioned. :-)
Health care reform on July 09, 2009:
Hey great recipe. Since its low fat, i like the most. Being fit and healthy is the most important. Thanks a lot.
RVDaniels from Athens, GA on June 26, 2009:
oderog from Nairobi on June 26, 2009:
Great Maddie, about this recipe
Trips from Portland, Oregon on June 25, 2009:
Cool, Maddie. I am in dire need of new recipes, and these are great! Appreciate your thoughtful explanations along with them. I love this type of food, but have never ventured to cook it--Now I will! :-)
girly_girl09 from United States on June 25, 2009:
I am going to try the Adobo recipe tomorrow night. Thanks. I have a bunch of chicken that I need to use up.
Sounds like it's really flavorful and would go great with brown rice. It looks easy enough that I could cook it, too! :D
rb11 from Las Vegas on June 25, 2009:
Have you ever tried kare-kare? I believe the peanut sauce is what makes it a bit unusual.