Home Tastes Like Chicken Adobo

I’ve been missing the taste of home lately, particularly my Lola’s chicken adobo. This dish was everything in my childhood, from the comforting smells of simmering soy sauce, vinegar and garlic to the sight of the chicken meat falling off the bone over a mound of rice during summers at my Lola’s house. After a rather sluggish work week I was craving these comforts enough to take a second chance with my Lola’s recipe.

As I chopped up garlic, I imagined my Lola telling me that the garlic was small enough already and to stop trying to dice them so small that they’d disappear. When pouring soy sauce and vinegar over the seasoned chicken legs in the Dutch Oven, I was mindful not to be as heavy handed with the vinegar as my mom (if anything, I tend to overdo it on the garlic salt and soy sauce). Occasionally I turned the chicken legs over with tongs using intuition rather than my iPhone timer. By the time I approached the final steps of my Lola’s Chicken Adobo recipe, to pour the sauce into a bowl and pan fry the chicken over medium-high heat, my kitchen smelled like my Lola’s kitchen did 15 years ago. I was 13 again, visiting Lola for the summer and eager for a casserole dish of her chicken to hit the table for my consumption.

My Thursday night feast was finished: a casserole dish of Chicken Adobo drumsticks, rice fresh out of the rice cooker and the necessary sides of sliced hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes. As I spooned out the Adobo sauce over my rice, I’m grateful I found a casserole dish similar to Lola’s at a thrift store in Maryland last month. As I cut up my chicken with a fork and spoon (if you’ve cooked it properly, you don’t need a knife as the meat falls off the bone) I’m thankful there’s plenty of sauce to go over my rice and chicken. After the first bite, I heard my Lola say, “A little too much garlic salt, but very good!” so I didn’t beat myself up on my seasoning hiccup.

For a while, I ate the meal in silence as the flavors transported me back to my Lola’s dining room table, where my sister and I would fight over the meatiest pieces of chicken while my mom would ask for more sliced tomatoes and eggs. The meal is comforting but a little bittersweet, since the usual suspects aren’t around the dining room table tonight for this adventure with my Lola’s written recipes. The food just didn’t seem as complete without my Lola hovering over us to see if we’ve gotten enough sauce over our rice mounds.

Tonight’s dinner brought me a little closer to home. As for the heavy-handedness with the garlic salt, that’s a conversation I can have with my Lola over the phone tomorrow.

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