Adobo is a dish as common in the local Filipinx community as it is beloved and varied in its technique and sometimes ingredients. More salty or tart? Sauce brothy or glaze like? Whole peppercorns or fresh cracked? Ginger added or not? Whole chicken or just chicken legs? What about gizzards and offals? There are no right or wrong answers, just a lot of very comforting and delicious possibilities. It is most commonly made with chicken, but I have had it with pork, lamb, shrimp and even squid! Everyone’s family has their own style and flair, making the dish special and unique. I personally have never tasted a version that did not instantly become my new favourite. My recipe is a vegetarian version, which features Asian eggplant and tofu; however, other possible vegetable substitutes are okra, squash, water spinach and bitter melon. This recipe also contains the unexpected ingredient of coconut milk, which adds a subtle sweetness to balance the sharp vinegar and makes for a sticky glaze of a sauce once reduced, perfect for pouring over freshly steamed rice.
Filipinx Adobo Style Eggplant and Tofu 9 Steps
Cut each eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch long pieces on a slight bias. Toss the cut eggplant pieces in a mixing bowl with the white sugar and kosher salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. This process draws out excess moisture and helps the eggplant to retain its firmness and texture.
While the eggplant is soaking, cut the tofu into pieces approximately 1 ½ x 1 ½ inches. Place the tofu pieces into the freezer for 30 minutes on a small tray. After 30 minutes remove and gently squeeze out excess moisture from each tofu piece. The tofu should be slightly firm but not completely frozen, this freezing process allows for easy extraction of moisture which in turn allows for the tofu to soak up much more of that tasty braising liquid during cooking.
Once the eggplant has soaked for at least 30 minutes, strain over a sieve and gently squeeze out any excess moisture.
In a large braising pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil on medium heat, add in the sliced garlic cloves and begin frying until lightly golden brown, approximately 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fried garlic slices and set aside.
In the same oil, begin frying the strained eggplant pieces until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan, add in the sliced shallots, tofu, smashed garlic cloves and cook for 2 minutes until the shallots begin to soften and take on some light browning color.
Add in the water, coconut milk, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vinegar, coconut syrup, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover with lid, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes add in the fried eggplant pieces and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until eggplant is tender and sauce is glaze-like.
Stir in optional Thai basil leaves, top with the fried garlic slices and serve alongside fresh steamed jasmine rice.