Filipinos Were Eating Adobo Before the Spaniards Came, Says Spanish Culinary Scientist
The Philippines may have influenced the Spanish adobo, and not the other way around.
"Filipinos had adobo before Spaniards came to your country, and I have proof," said Borja Sanchez, a Spanish chef
Sanchez revealed his findings at a lecture titled "Adobos, Vinegars, and Other Cultural Connections between the Philippines and Spain" at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Sanchez pored over tomes and tomes of books from Spain's ancient archives to find out everything about the history of adobos,
"You'd think it was so interesting poring over these old books, eh?" Sanchez teased the audience. "No, it's not interesting," he jokes, then tells how monotonous and unanimated old books were.
In his research that retraces more than 500 years of gastronomy, Sanchez revealed that globalization during the 16th century was not a one-way street from Spain to the Philippines, as what many would suggest. In fact, his research points to the fact that many traditional Spanish cuisines were influenced by ingredients brought to Spain by way of trading with Asian countries.
"I want to emphasize that our cultures share more than brotherhood. Many traditional Spanish dishes we have today use ingredients from Asia in the 16th century," explained Sanchez.
"Spanish cuisine is what it is because of globalization, because of Spain's interactions with Mexico, Africa, Colombia, the Philippines, and more," said Sanchez. "For example, when we eat escabeches, we used many ingredients like bay leaves and black pepper. Same as when we ate
Vinegar: The universal preservative
Before talking about adobo, Sanchez emphasized the historical role of vinegar in Spain and in
"Among all the products used in preservation methods, vinegar is the sole ingredient that has been used in so many cultures and places, including the Philippines, and this is key to making adobo," said Sanchez.
"Vinegar has powerful antibacterial properties, which makes it an effective food preservative, historically.
What is adobo?
Sanchez' research brought him to the conclusion that adobo in Spain and in the Philippines is historically and primarily vinegar-based, with a mix of other spices, liquids, and other ingredients.
"Pedro de San Buenaventura is an important reference when it comes to talking about adobo because he is the first one who called adobo as 'adobo' in the Philippines," explained Sanchez. San Buenaventura is a Spanish Friar who wrote the book, Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala (1613).
Sanchez then emphasized the same hydrogen potential and acidic level of the marinade used for Spanish and Filipino adobos in the pre-colonial eras.
"In Spain, adobo is a traditional gastronomical element consisting of a protein element, which means meat or fish, immersed in a concentrated solution known to us as salsa or adobo. Adobo is the liquid in which we cure the meat. This salsa has a hydrogen potential, and is quite acidic - the pH level is so low. It is usually composed
"Historically, in the Philippines, adobo is directly associated with some specific cooking processes and flavor. Its first characteristic is the marinating of meat in a liquid component of high acidic hydrogen potential," he continued.
The Philippines also influenced Spanish cuisine
Sanchez then implied that instead of Spain handing down adobo recipes to Filipinos, he explained how much of Spain's traditional adobo ingredients have spices that came from around the world, including the Philippines.
"We go back to the concept of
The original Filipino adobo
According to Sanchez, Pedro de San Buenaventura selected the word "adobo" in the 16th century for a Tagalog word called
Asked about why soy sauce is not a main ingredient of adobo, Sanchez explained that hundreds of years before Filipinos discovered soy sauce through the Chinese, they were already using vinegar. He then reiterated that vinegar is the real base ingredient of adobo, based on historical and modern definitions.
The original purpose of adobo
"Really, there are many kinds of adobos, and their mixture of vinegar and spices depend on the geographic region," said Sanchez, "but they all have one thing in common, which is vinegar."
"Adobo, in regional gastronomy, becomes more important in humid environments because vinegar is an important preservative ingredient in coasts and regions surrounding bay areas. Historically, vinegar was used more as a preservative than an ingredient for flavor, because it prevents the growth of bacteria. That's the original purpose of adobo, especially in places with high humidity, like in coastal and bay area regions in Spain, much more in the Philippines which is an archipelago."