By Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
Every Filipino is an adobo-loving citizen, and it doesn't matter how you cook this dish. In fact, the many ways of making this all-time favorite ulam is proof that adobo has become an important and inextricable part of the Filipino identity.
It was in that one small strip of New York City street that a group gathered to give the Filipino Heritage Month one last hurrah. And what a way to go for Philippines Fest, closing out the festivities with a nod to the undisputed national dish of the Philippines:
An October To Remember
A month-long series of festivals organized by Philippines Fest gave Filipinos in New York — small business owners, foodies, artists, and Filipinos by blood — the opportunity to mingle, network, and celebrate the colorful Filipino heritage through arts, crafts, clothing, and arguably the most Filipino of them all: food!
The Lumpia Festival gave guests two days to indulge in a wide array of spring rolls, thanks to the creative cooks and chefs who came and showcased their creations. The Kalamansi Festival followed a week later, putting a spotlight on the favorite lime of the Filipinos, and the many ways calamansi is used in food and drinks.
Next on the list: the Adobo Festival.
This much-awaited pop up event was set up along Eldridge Street (between Delancey and Rivington) on October 30, 2022. The gentle breeze wafted the savory smell of freshly-cooked pork and chicken stew.
Keyk's Chef Jae de Castro, who is Team Chicken Adobo when it comes to preference, remembers the event very fondly. "The reception was great. We sold out," they said.
Keyk, a New York-based bakery that makes "artisanal keyks and childhood nostalgic treats inspired by the world" is one of the many Philippines Fest regulars. "We are known for our Twinkie-inspired Keyks. For last year’s Adobo Fest we provided an assortment of savory and sweet Keyks," Chef Jae said.
The Adobo Fest Keyk Pack has three variants. Each one is a genuine delight to the taste buds, with its perfect mix and balance of sweet and savory flavors.
There's a Vanilla Keyk topped with shredded chicken adobo and crunchy garlic, which was inspired by the adobo flakes from a popular Philippine burger and burrito chain; a Vanilla Keyk topped with SPAM and furikake which was inspired by Spam Masubi; and a Vanilla Keyk topped with chicken sisig, which as Chef Jae said was "inspired by all our visits to the carinderia back home."
And that's just for sweets and desserts.
Guests also feasted on Patok By Rach's lechon and adobo in a bun. Pandayo NYC's adobo puto was also a hit. And there's Mansi for a cool, refreshing drink.
As one can expect, though adobo rice was EVERYWHERE!
For every adobo fan, this is one unforgettable experience. Thankfully, a touchstone to this gastronomic event was available to guests because of, Narra Studio, a POC and all-Filipina brand dedicated to the handmade heritage of the Philippines, plus a regular exhibitor in all of Philippines Fest's events.
Adobo Never Fails. This keychain speaks to every adobo-loving individual, those who find comfort and satisfaction in this bowl of savory goodness. If you weren’t able to nab this during the event, it's not too late for you — the keychain is still available here. For the completionist, you can find Narra Studio’s food-themed keychains and earrings here.
Best in the Fest
The adobo was delicious. But that's what everyone says after eating any version of this dish. That's why one important question is left unanswered: what is the best adobo?
Here at the Adobo Festival, many came forward and joined the adobo competition. Ticket holders got to vote on which dish was deserving of the Best Adobo award.
Who won? It doesn’t matter. No proud, full-blooded Filipino will concede that someone else makes a better adobo, anyway.
All that matters is that for one whole day, there’s adobo for everyone. And for staging that event, kudos go to Philippines Fest, who made this happen in partnership with the local nonprofit organization University Settlement, along with local churches and neighbors in the Lower East Side.
The Philippines Fest was founded by VJ Navarro of So Sarap NYC (the highly sought-after fishbulan, isawan, and palamigan this side of New York), Kabisera NYC owner Augelyn Francisco, and Paulo Manaid of Hatzumomo, which specializes in fashion and accessories made with handwoven textiles and fabrics indigenous to the Philippines. These three young, idealistic, and energetic Fil-Am entrepreneurs are the ones responsible for forming this collective. The mission: to give fellow small business owners like themselves a stage to showcase Filipino culture, heritage, ingenuity, and creativity.
Take a bow, Philippines Fest!
Fest and the Future
The street was buzzing with activity as early as 11:00 am. By closing time at 6:00 pm, everyone who came left with a smile on their face, their adobo cravings satisfied — for now.
Because every Filipino knows: no one gets over adobo.
And so the wait for the next Adobo Festival begins.