You’ve heard of ‘the other white meat’ right? Well this is the ‘other adobo’ as in Filipino Pork Adobo, not Mexican. I’m calling it Filipino Pork Adobo St. Malo since it’s Louisiana Filipino Adobo and if that sounds strange to your ears then clean them out and get to larnin… because the oldest colony of Asians in the United States was populated by Filipinos in St. Malo, Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Filipino Connection
St. Malo itself was founded by Jean St. Malo who led a group of runaway slaves escaping the Spanish in 1784, Louisiana being a Spanish colony at the time. They settled in the marsh on Lake Borgne and were soon joined by ‘Manila Men’ aka, Filipino sailors who’d been forced into service on Spanish ships. Swabbing decks and eating wormy hardtack had apparently lost their appeal, motivating the Manila Men to jump ship and make common cause with the escapees in St. Malo. More Tagalas as they were also called after their language, Tagalog, came to south Louisiana and settled in several villages near New Orleans. There were enough to support Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1803, and when they weren’t fighting they were fishing.
They developed the market for what’s called sea bob – those tiny dried shrimp that come in plastic bags in Asian markets and are great for flavoring stock. They also supplied the French market with all the other kinds of fish the gulf provides. And they were well enough known to be profiled by Lafcadio Hearn in an article published in 1883. He described them as “cinnamon-colored men, well-knit and supple as fresh water eels.” I’ve never heard of a person or group of people described as having eel like qualities but the general tone of the article is complimentary so I suppose we should take it that way. He also described their Malay style houses with the thatched, hat-shaped roofs built right above the marsh on stilts and some odd encounters with one-legged chickens who had been disabled by the bites of carnivorous crabs.
Interestingly, the Manila men kept the fish camps as bachelor quarters and visited their wives in the city on market days which no doubt kept their marriages as fresh as the seafood they were selling. But on to the food!
The great thing about Filipino Pork Adobo St. Malo is that it’s forgiving and by that I mean ingredients that can be more or less than what’s mentioned here and the cooking time is somewhat fungible. It’s almost impossible to overcook and perfect for a crockpot. It’s also perfect with chicken, duck or even goat. The only warning is to go easy on the vinegar or you will have to compensate with more honey or brown sugar in the final dish. Ideally the sugar should act to enhance the other flavors not be a bottled teriyaki corn syrup taste alike.
It’s one of those dishes that’s fast to set up and slow to cook allowing the chef (if it’s a she chef) to beat a retreat and emerge later wearing a Dorothy Lamour-like sarong just in time to lift the lid off this savory sweet stew. Serve this dish in that dress and someone might just serve you a very nice dessert!
And if you need an idea for that try a tropical Ambrosia Cake.
- 2 lbs pork shoulder cut into chunks (or pork belly)
- ½ of a medium onion, sliced thin
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons ginger grated
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns
- honey or brown sugar to taste, usually about 2 to 3 tablespoons
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 1.5 cup chicken broth
- Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks & add salt & pepper to taste.
- Brown quickly in an oiled pan, then remove & set aside.
- Drain excess fat (if there is any) then add onion & garlic. Cook over medium heat till clear. Do not brown.
- Add vinegar, soy sauce, broth, bay leaf, hot pepper flakes, peppercorns & ginger.
- Place the pork back in the sauce, cover & cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender. You can cook on the stovetop or in a 250-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
- Remove pork & reduce the sauce to desired thickness, add honey & return pork to pan.
- Serve over rice and garnish with sliced pepper & green onion.