Basic Chicken Adobo
Proclaimed by Ivan Dy on No Reservations as the national dish of the Philippines, many Filipino-Americans, when craving mom's comfort food, think of rice and adobo (A Black Eyed Pea even mentions it in a song). But there is no accepted traditional recipe of the dish, a Cebuano adobo differs from Pampangan, Ilocano, etc. I will (try) and include as many different forms that I have had, but I'm no expert, share your family recipes if you have them, and it might be interesting if you share, to list where in the Philippines your family is originally from.
Adobo, in general, refers to any cooking by braising in a mixture of vinegar and garlic. Many of the variations include toyo (soy sauce) but that is not to say that you need to add it, there are some that don't. Like many things in Filipino culture, including many surnames, it was given its name by the Spanish which implies it was called something else before they showed up, but as far as I know, its original name is lost.
Basic Chicken Adobo
1 chicken, cut up into manageable pieces, tennis ball size maybe.
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2:1 vinegar:soy sauce (you may want to start with 1:1 vinegar to soy, if you are not a big fan of vinegar/sour taste)
Salt and Pepper
In a wok brown garlic in oil, add chicken, bay leaf, and vinegar/soy mixture, enough to half submerse. Cover and simmer on low/medium heat until the chicken is tender, turning every 10 min or so. Remove the bay leaf and serve over rice.
This is pretty much how my mom does it. I like to add a slightly western technique to it. I like to salt my chicken and sear it before putting it in the braise. Just cut up the chicken, salt, brown in small batches in a hot wok with oil, then brown the garlic, and deglaze with vinegar/soy. The browning adds quite a bit of savoriness and just ties everything together.
If you want a Cebuano version you would take the finished adobo, reserve the sauce, and refry it in oil, adding just enough of the reserved sauce to sort of glaze the chicken, but the chicken is more or less dry when compared to the basic recipe.
Pampangans would use pork shoulder, belly, or short ribs instead of chicken and would add onions. If you use a pork and need it to braise, add vinegar/soy to half submerge, then add water to just barely cover. Braise until tender then reduce the sauce.
Southern Filipinos such as the Mindanowans add coconut milk and sometimes minced ginger to their braise, probably due to the Malay/Indonesian influence from the south. Given the base recipe, just add one cup of coconut milk, works best with chicken, not pork.
I've also seen shrimp adobo-ed. I'm sure you can even use tofu.
Treated elsewhere on the wiki here: Chicken Adobo I'm going to critique this slightly in that you should really brown the garlic and sauté the onions before adding the chicken. My mom doesn't always add onions to hers, I consider it a regional variation and not a staple.
One of my favorite variations (my girlfriend's favorite, too) is adobo with catfish. Just take a whole catfish, cut into steaks, season with salt and pepper, dust with flour and fry until golden, then braise in vinegar/toyo.
Edit: Serving leftovers of this with sinangag and fried egg is "Adobosilog"