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Cook the Book: 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

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Up until The Adobo Road, contributor Marvin Gapultos's new cookbook, arrived at my front door, my only exposure to Filipino cuisine was watching Sheldon cook a bunch of stir-fries on Top Chef Season 10. I knew that Filipino food draws from the cultures of many different colonizing countries, and that adobo contains lots of vinegar and soy. That's about it.

Now that I've cooked through several of Gapultos's recipes and have read his lovingly detailed overview, I have, frankly, become quite enamored of Filipino cooking.

Anyone who's familiar with Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Spanish cuisine might recognize some of these flavors but the ingredients are joined in a whole new array of tastes and textures. Take, for example, Gapultos's recipe for sardines and tomato sauce (recipe coming later this week): The basic combination of tomatoes, wine, smoked paprika, and seafood wouldn't be out of place on a tapas menu. Yet, a few key additions--fish sauce and calamansi lime juice--take the dish in an entirely unique direction. The briny funk of the fish sauce complements the oily richness of the sardines, while the calamansi juice (like lemon and lime combined) brightens the sauce and takes it in an almost tropical direction.

Even though the pantry ingredients and flavor pairings are a bit unfamiliar, the recipes themselves are simple, well-written, and easy to follow. Gapultos helpfully gives weight and volume measurements for just about everything, so you know exactly what he means when he lists things like 4 garlic cloves or 1 large shallot (super helpful for all of us type-A cooks). Anything remotely complicated comes with sidebars filled with pictures and detailed directions, and there is a index (including pictures) of all foreign ingredients.

The best part of The Adobo Road is Gapultos's storytelling. The book was written as a project of documentation. His mother, grandmother, and "aunties" are all prolific Filipino cooks, and have gradually taught Gapultos most of what he knows in the kitchen. In order to preserve their culinary knowledge, he began blogging about his experiences, cooking and riffing off the traditional foods of his childhood. This book is a collection of many of these recipes, complete with heartfelt vignettes and photographs of his family.

This week, we'll sample some classic Filipino dishes as well as a few of Gapultos's family specialties. We'll start with Pork and Vegetable Lumpia, and then dive right into a classic Chicken Adobo. Following that, we'll have Kale Greens with Coconut Milk and Sardines with Tomato Sauce. We'll finish out on a sweet note with a Tapioca and Mango Porridge.

Win 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

Thanks to our friends at Tuttle Publishing, we have five (5) copies of The Adobo Road Cookbook to give away this week.

All you need to do to win a copy is to tell us about your family's food heritage in the comments section below.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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