For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to grow up with Filipino friends or near LA’s Filipino community, you might not haven’t tried the sour, sweet and salty deliciousness that is chicken adobo in Los Angeles. As one of the quintessential Filipino dishes–not to be mistaken with Mexican adobo–Filipino adobo is prepared by stewing chicken, beef, fish, veg (anything really) in vinegar and soy sauce. Every family has their own interpretation. Some add peppers, some add shrimp paste, some people make it saucier, some more dry.
Think of it as the Filipino meatloaf, or fried chicken or brisket: Your family recipe reigns supreme. Even though LA has been home to a huge Filipino population for a long time, the cuisine— unlike other Asian immigrant cultures—has mostly remained in the homes of those who immigrated. Well, no more! The island country’s cuisine is finally becoming mainstream in part to chefs like Charles Olalia of Ricebar and Andrew “Dru” Betita of the newly opened Aestus in Santa Monica.
And since Andrew's got his own version of chicken adobo on his menu, we wanted to know where he goes to get a taste of home. Here’s a rundown of his top spots for adobo–chicken and otherwise–in LA and one in his hometown of San Diego:
Chicken Fritters, $14
Andrew Betita: Fritters are prepared with adobo by braising chicken thighs in palm vinegar, soy, bay leaf, black pepper with tons of garlic and russet potato. The fritters are then served with black pepper aioli, sliced serrano chile and pickled green garlic from Milliken family farms. It’s part inspired by my Uncle Rafi who used to prepare a version of chicken adobo with serrano chile and potato.
Image courtesy of Aestus
LASA, Unit 120
Grilled Octopus Adobo, currently not available
AB: Chad Valencia and Nico de Leon are cooking delicious Filipino food with great technique and are committed to great product. They're really talented chefs who are going to change the way LA sees Filipino food. They served this dish with coconut oil-confit sweet potato, chicories, black garlic and cilantro vinaigrette.
Chicken Adobo, $8.75
AB: Order the lunch special f-8. You can get it in chicken or pork, or both! They also do a grilled chicken adobo sandwich. I always feel like I'm at an auntie's house when I eat here. Their adobo is very traditional and delicious over rice. The sinigang is also killer. Splurge for the big bowl of halo halo for dessert.
Adobo Fried Rice (Brunch Item) $16
AB: This dish is delicious. They serve pork belly adobo over fried rice and top it all off it with fried eggs! So many of my favorite things on one dish.
Belly & Snout
Pork Adobo Grilled Cheese, $6.25
AB: Living in Koreatown I'd always pass this spot, driving down Western Avenue on my way to work wondering what it was. I finally dropped in and was excited to find Filipino-American comfort food. This grilled cheese made with tender pork adobo on white bread with good ol' American cheese.
Chicken adobo, Small $3.50, Medium $7.00, Large $9.95
AB: This is the kind of spot I'd go to with my dad in San Diego. It's family-owned and they use family recipes.
Melissa Karlin is a writer, photographer and professional social butterfly based in Los Angeles, California. She’s wrote her Master’s dissertation on Anthony Bourdain and travel television shows, so it makes sense that she is now writing about the LA food scene. Follow her misadventures on Twitter @meli64 or on Instagram @informedwanderer.
Featured image courtesy of aestus