Philippine food can be very tasty. Filipinos like to mix various ingredients, spices and seasonings into their cooking and love to use dipping sauces on already highly flavoured dishes. The most common are patis, or fish sauce; bagoong, a salty paste made from shrimp or anchovies; and a spicy concoction of soy sauce, cane vinegar and chopped chillies.
Unlike the food of other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, Philippine food has never achieved the same popularity beyond its borders. This is perhaps due to the fact that Philippine cuisine is the result of influences from many different cultures – Chinese, Malay, Spanish and American, to name the major ones – combining to impart no distinctive traits and flavours to give the food a clear national identity.
There are not many dishes that have a singular characteristic that can be described as uniquely Philippine. This is evident even with popular dishes that Filipinos like to eat on festive occasions, such as roast pig, paella and pancit, or stir-fried noodles, which have strong similarities to the cuisines of other countries.
One exception, however, is adobo. Filipinos think of adobo as their national dish. Portions of pork and chicken are marinated in soy sauce, vinegar and brown sugar for six hours, with laurel leaves and black peppercorns added for extra spice, and then stewed. The result is an aromatic dish that is characterised by sweet, sour and salty flavours simultaneously. Adobo is usually served with garlic rice and astara, or pickled vegetable strips.
A robust dish like that needs a full-bodied wine. Terrazas de los Andes Afincado Cabernet Sauvignon effortlessly matches the flavours of the abodo without being overwhelmed. The tannins and spice notes in the wine, especially dark chocolate, complement the earthiness and smokiness of the dish while taming the distinctive sweet-sour-salty flavours of the adobo.
The appearance of the wine is dark garnet with violet highlights accompanied by notes of dark fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries and redcurrants, together with spicy notes such as green pepper and liquorice. The wine is intense and complex: this pure expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from Finca Los Aromos in Argentina is completed with cedar, tobacco and smoked notes given by oaked ageing. It has great structure and balance, and stands out for its concentration and round tannins as a long-lasting and elegant wine.
The ideal place to try adobo is at one of The Philippines' most stylish restaurants, Manila's The Terrace at 5th. Sitting unobtrrusively overlooking a lush garden, it projects and idyllic charm with simple yet appealing interior design and an eclectic mix of dishes from the treasured family recipes of the owners.
Thanks to Alfredo Z Pio de Roda III for his help with the food and wine pairings. A director of the Philippine Branch of the International Wine & Food Society, he also writes regular articles on wine for upscale Philippine lifestyle publication Metro Society.