There is actually no law or official proclamation about it (failed bills notwithstanding), but ask a Christian Filipino what they believe the national dish is, and there is a good chance they would say adobo. This savory food, consisting of meat marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and pepper, has become a Filipino cultural superstar that even foreigners are aware of it. Though usually taken for granted, people’s attention to adobo intensified this past weekend following a proposal by a committee under the Department of Trade and Industry to propose a standardized recipe for adobo for promotional purposes. After some locals voiced outcry, the DTI is seeking to explain itself. reports that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has found itself under fire from Filipino foodies for what they perceived was a mandatory standardization of the recipe for adobo and other signature Filipino cuisine being undertaken by a technical committee under their direction. A statement released by the DTI on Sunday, July 11, stressed that any motion of standardizing the adobo recipe was merely for international promotion of the dish, and would not have the mandatory force of law especially in the country.

A public briefing by DTI Secretary Mon Lopez clarified that the recipe standardization for viands like adobo merely serves to preserve the Filipino characteristics of the dishes from similarities with foods prepared in other countries. Adobo’s marinating process comes from the Spanish, after all; as is the word origin (“adobar”). This also serves to make adobo distinct from other similar recipes such as humba or paksiw, which usually has some overlap of ingredients and spices being used. “This will not be mandatory,” says Secretary Lopez. “We’re doing this because we want to have a basic traditional recipe we can promote abroad, the so-called Philippine adobo.”

Work on standardizing Filipino recipes was begun back in May by the DTI technical working group. Its members comprise of chefs and local culinary specialists, including Via Mare Restaurants and Catering founder Glenda Barreto, and representatives from the Food Writers Association of the Philippines and Hotel, Restaurant Association of the Philippines, UP Diliman-College of Home Economics, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and even the Philippine Daily Inquirer itself.

Much of the recent vitriol regarding the fuss over standardizing Filipino cuisine like adobo comes from complaints that government officials and private sector reps are discussing how food recipes should be made uniform, when the Philippines is still struggling with more dire issues like natural disasters and the COVID pandemic.

Image courtesy of Rappler