Filipino adobo dish turns versatile comfort-food topping with secret Manila Kitchen Vancouver recipe

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      A version of the quintessential Filipino adobo dish has found a place alongside familiar savoury toppings like bacon and ham.

      Since Natasha Acuba-Bailey and her mother brought out their family’s recipe for adobo flakes, she has seen food lovers getting creative with the fare.

      “It’s like a tossup between pork floss and beef jerky,” the owner of Manila Kitchen Vancouver says about the flavour-packed dish in a phone interview with the Straight.

      Acuba-Bailey related that some put the crispy, shredded pork preparation on top of noodles, pancakes, waffles, and perogies.

      Some even usie adobo flakes as topping for poke bowls.

      “It’s super versatile,” Acuba-Bailey said.

      Among Filipinos, adobo is one of the most popular items for ulam, or the dish that is eaten together with the staple food rice.

      The dish is often pork or chicken or a combination of both, and braised in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf, until sauce is thickened.

      For adobo flakes, it is cooked some more until the liquid is gone, becoming adobong tuyo (dried abodo). The meat is then shredded and made crunchy, typically on a pan.

      Manila Kitchen Vancouver’s adobo flakes come in mason jars and family-size boxes.

      Acuba-Bailey uses pork shoulder, but that is all she will let on about her family’s secret preparation.

      “My mom is going to kill me if I give the recipe away,” she said laughing.

      Do they put brown sugar to balance the soy and vinegar?

      The Manila Kitchen Vancouver proprietor wouldn’t budge.

      She will only say her family does it in a special way.

      The adobo flakes come in 100- and 200-gram mason jars, which Acuba-Bailey are perfect for baon, packed lunch for work, school or trips.

      There is a 400-gram box called The Estelita, which is named after her mother.

      A bigger box, which is ideal for potluck gatherings, is called The Teresita after Acuba-Bailey’s maternal grandmother, who started making adobo flakes.

      The family hails from the Metro Manila suburb of Pateros, a town famous for balut, an exotic Filipino delicacy of hard-boiled incubated duck egg.

      By the way, balut can also be prepared as an adobo.

      Acuba-Bailey works as a retail manager, and is a make-up artist by training.

      She was 19 when her family moved to Canada.

      “We want to showcase Filipino food in a different way,” Acuba-Bailey said about why she and her mother started the home-based Manila Kitchen Vancouver in 2020.

      Her mother is back in Manila.

      Acuba-Bailey is the third generation in her family to learn its unique way of doing adobo flakes.

      “I call it the most innovative topping that you can buy,” she said.

      For many Filipinos, the traditional adobo and its many versions, which include the flaked variety, goes perfect with garlic rice, fried egg, and a side salad.

      Manila Kitchen Vancouver is one of 18 vendors in this year’s Magkasama Christmas market.

      Magkasama is the Tagalog word for ‘together’.

      The virtual market event is organized by Matt Brennan and Corvette Romero of Shameless Buns.

      Shameless Buns started as a food truck in 2019, and has grown into a brick-and-mortar establishment at 5772 Fraser Street.

      Georgia Straight readers voted Shameless Buns as one of the best food trucks in the paper’s 2021 Golden Plates edition.

      Here are the details of the Magkasama Christmas market:


      Instagram: @magkasama.vancouver

      Shop on the website: November 19 to November 28

      Pick up: December 3-5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

      Pick up location: Shameless Buns Restaurant - 5772 Fraser St. Vancouver