Squid is one of my favourite seafood. Serve it to me grilled perfectly and I’ll actually choose it over crab and lobster (I heard that). I don’t get to eat it that often because squid is best prepared fresh and if not cooked properly the meat becomes chewy and rubbery making it unpleasant to eat. Squid should be soft enough to slice like butter, tender enough to bite and chew easily, and when it’s done this way it’s absolutely magical. And the squid ink, that black magic that turns my lips a darker shade of black, I love it in everything from pasta to risotto and everything in between.
When I’m in Manila, I look forward to eating squid because it is in abundance here. They sell it fresh at the wet markets and they come in all sizes. My favourite way they prepare it is Inihaw na Pusit (grilled squid), Ininhaw na Rellenong Pusit (grilled squid stuffed with onions and tomatoes), and Adobong Pusit. They are on menus all over the city but this trip I wanted to learn how to make more Filipino dishes because I want to be able to cook more of it at home when I’m back in Vancouver. Adobong Pusit was on my list so I asked Mae to teach me how to prepare it the other night.
Mae is one of the younger sisters of Nene who took care of us growing up both in Manila and in Hong Kong. She just started working for us recently and despite never having met each other until this trip, she and I were familiar with each other because of all the stories Nene would tell us growing up. Funny enough, I still remember a photo of Mae that Nene showed me when I was little. She was wearing a peach dress, her hair in curls, and her face all done up for a local beauty pageant in their town. Mae and I share a special bond because she inherited all my old clothes, shoes, and books being only 4 months younger than me. Now it is her recipes that she is sharing with me.
Pusit means squid and Adobong is the verb for Adobo which comes from the Spanish word “Adobar” meaning marinade, seasoning or sauce. Spain conquered and ruled the Philippines from 1521-1898 and as a result, much of Filipino culture including its language and cuisine is intertwined with Spain’s. Adobo, now the most celebrated Filipino cooking technique worldwide, is actually indigenous to Spain. The early Spaniards used it to preserve the freshness of their food by immersing it in salt and vinegar and today, it is still used to simmer meat and seafood in a varying combination of soy sauce, vinegar and, unbeknownst to me until last night, fish sauce.
Mae’s Adobong Pusit uses cane vinegar and fish sauce for her ‘adobo’ sauce along with the squid’s black ink. It is absolutely delicious, easy to prepare and very forgiving. Cook it a bit longer if the squid is not tender enough and cook it longer if you’ve overcooked it, either way, the meat will ultimately yield to the simmering heat producing a melt in your mouth, tender squid texture. You have to eat it with rice, of course, because you need it to sop up all the delicious black ink adobo sauce. And to be truly Filipino, eat it the way they traditionally do with your hands. Ok, I see those looks. Those of you that know me know that I hate eating with my hands. I eat pizza with a fork and knife for goodness sakes. But that’s just me and just because I’m weird about it doesn’t mean I would deny you of the Filipino “kamayan” experience. After all, who knows when you might find yourself without a fork and a knife. And a plate of this black magic and rice in front of you.
P.S. Give Nene’s Amazing Blueberry Muffins a try, she is an amazing baker and her muffins are wonderful!
Mae’s Adobong Pusit
What you need:
1 kilo squid medium squid (approximately 12 pcs.), slice each squid into 4 pcs.
2 tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1″ ginger, peeled and sliced
5T cane vinegar, approximately
3 T fish sauce, approximately
2 siling duwag or any other chili of your choice
What to do:
1. Wash and clean the squid. Keep the sac with the back ink to use later.
2. Put some oil into a pan over medium heat.
3. Add garlic, ginger, onion and tomatoes and cook until fragrant.
4. Add the squid and cook for a few minutes.
5. Add the fish sauce, the cane vinegar, and a little bit of salt and stir.
6. Add the whole siling duwag.
7. Cover with lid and let simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Siling duwag is a chilli from Ilocos, Philippines. You can substitute it with any other kind of green chilis (depending on your heat tolerance) if you can’t find siling duwag.
- Cane vinegar is made from syrup from sugar cane. You can substitute cane vinegar with ordinary white vinegar if you can’t find cane vinegar.
- Try baby squid with this dish instead of medium squid, but avoid using the larger squid which is less flavourful than the small and medium varieties.
- The ingredients were just approximations as in Asian cooking, especially home cooking, measurements are rarely done. “Tantsa tantsa,” from the Spanish word tantear which means ‘to estimate,’ is what they always say.