The food of the Philippines: Spicy adobo meatballs

spicy adobo meatballs

Without doubt, adobo is the national dish of the Philippines with hundreds of variants — arguably there are as many types of adobo as there are mamas in the country!

While usually served with chunks of meat or fish, this version draws inspiration from for a fresh twist on the classic dish.

The dish

This can be cooked in a big batch as it will store in the fridge for several days, making it an ideal stand-by for the holiday season.

My method of cooking the meatballs is just one option, different chefs have different ideas on this. Some pan fry until brown, others dunk into boiling water before adding them to the sauce and some just add the raw meatballs to cook in the sauce. Whichever your preference, it’s all good.

Also, the choice of meat is up to you. If you can get hold of minced pork, lamb, turkey or ostrich you can use that instead.

Traditionally you’d serve this with rice, but if you’re on the paleo or avoiding too many carbs at this time of year, it’s great to eat by itself or with a salad.


For the Meatballs:

1 pound (1/2 kilo) of lean ground (minced) beef
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of pepper
2 cloves of crushed garlic
½ cup of bread crumbs
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
5 – 7 drops of tabasco sauce
2 tbsp of ketchup
1 egg

For the Adobo Sauce:

1 cup of beef broth
3 tbsp of white vinegar
5-6 tbsp of soy sauce
4 whole cloves of garlic, pressed
1 large chopped tomato
½ an onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp of sugar
3 bay leaves
½ tsp of pepper or pepper corns
¼ tsp of hot pepper flakes or 1 chopped chili
5-6 shredded basil leaves to garnish (optional)

How to make spicy adobo meatballs

Preheat oven to 400F (200C/gas mark 6).

Place ground beef in a mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, mix until partially combined. Then, using your (freshly washed and clean) hands, all of the ingredients into the meat.

Spray a baking sheet with baking spray. Scoop up a handful of the mixture (a couple of tablespoons) and roll into a ball (the mixture, not you). Place the meatball on the baking sheet and repeat the process for the rest of the mixture (This recipe should produce about 15 meatballs).

Place the meatballs in the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, pour a little oil into a pan over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and tomato. Stir for couple of minutes until the tomato is soft.

Add the beef broth, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, pepper corns, hot pepper flakes and sugar. Allow it to come to a boil. Stop! Don’t stir the mixture at this point…

When it’s boiling, then you can give it a stir.

Add the meatballs in and spoon some of the sauce over them. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, occasionally spooning sauce over the meatballs, for about 15 minutes.

Serve the meatballs on a bed of rice and spoon extra sauce over the top. For a really professional touch, sprinkle with shredded basil leaves.


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