One cooking show my sons enjoy is “Sorted Food” on YouTube because of the British humor, the absurdity of testing new gadgets, doing or undoing recipes in books, and comparing dishes of different restaurants, like fish and chips in London.

Benjamin “Ben” Ebbrell, Michael “Mike” Huttlestone, Jamie Spafford and Barry Taylor launched the show in 2010. James Currie joined in 2014, and to this day the show is a YouTube success. 

But they did copy Alton Brown’s technique of having a camera in the refrigerator, where two hosts are shown looking in and revealing what the episode is all about. 

Alton Brown, according to my boys, was a cinematographer before being a food presenter, hence the refrigerator technique.

You should see this, my older son said. The hosts, Ben and Barry, made chicken adobo. It’s called “Peppercorn Chicken–Filipino Adobo.” 

The first thing that surprised me was that the marinade had ginger. With so many versions of adobo in the country, I thought probably they chose one of those. But to my surprise, Ben showed the book where the recipe was sourced—Nora Daza’s “A Culinary Life” (Anvil Publishing, 1992), given by one of the show’s fans in the United States, Stephanie, a Filipina.

My memory is often faulty, but I don’t recall that the chicken adobo recipe in that book had ginger. “A Culinary Life” was the first book I edited and worked on with my Tita Nora. (An important sidebar: The book was the first to use desktop publishing for layout.) 

A look at the Chicken and Pork Adobo recipe revealed no ginger, but the rest of the ingredients and procedures were followed. 

‘Best chicken dish in the world’

A search through the Adobo section of “Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine” (Anvil Publishing, 2008) showed no ginger. Even “Let’s Cook with Nora” (New Edition, Anvil Publishing, 2019) did not include it.

But the important thing was that the “Sorted Food” hosts tasted and loved the result.

And so did Mark Bittman, who was a food writer of the New York Times and who has authored cookbooks. He wrote how this “Philippine dish has been called the best chicken dish in the world by a number of my friends and readers.” Bittman’s adobo dish has coconut milk, which we know as adobo sa gata.But there are differences in the recipes of each book. 

Adobo in “Sorted Food” and in Daza’s two books marinates the ingredients first in the vinegar, soy sauce and spices mixture. “Kulinarya” and Bittman will have you stewing right away.

In “Let’s Cook with Nora,” the marinated pork and/or chicken are fried first before stewing. “Sorted Food,” “Kulinarya” and” A Culinary Life” fry it after the stewing, although Bittman recommends either roasting, broiling or grilling.

“Sorted Food” also adds onions and sugar at the end. 

While bay leaf and whole black peppercorn seem to be an integral part of the ingredients, some Batangas adobo will not include the bay leaf because of the smell, I was told. And in Samar, bay leaf is called pamintang dahon because bay leaf and pepper are often sold together in an adobo pack. The pack was on the cover of “Adobo Book” by Nancy Reyes and Reynaldo Alejandro. INQEmail 

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