The Happy Home Cook: Adobong Dilaw, a Timeless Recipe

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Adobong Dilaw - Adobo with Turmeric, my modern version of Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo's recipe (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Adobong Dilaw - Adobo with Turmeric, my modern version of Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo's recipe (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Turmeric or luyang dilaw is not the first thing one thinks of for adobo, much less in relation to the Philippine revolution of the 1890s. But it was turmeric that made the Adobong Dilaw a distinct dish Maria Agoncillo brought with her to the Aguinaldo home in Cavite.

When General Emilio Aguinaldo’s first wife, Hilaria died, Aguinaldo remarried nine years later. Aguinaldo was a widower with three daughters by his first marriage. He married Maria Agoncillo of Taal, Batangas, a niece of Felipe Agoncillo, the diplomat.

Historians cite the Adobong Dilaw or yellow adobo with turmeric, as Maria’s contribution to the household menu. This adobo version originated from her hometown in Batangas.

Turmeric or dilaw turns everything a bright yellow when added to a recipe. The root crop is abundant in Cavite. Also called luyang dilaw, it has more of a peppery than a gingery flavor. This is an ingredient that has been around for centuries. Health experts proclaim turmeric’s nutritional benefits. In Cavite, it is what makes the adobo a unique, tangy yellow stew.

The Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite was where General Aguinaldo proclaimed independence against colonial rule. It was on the balcony where the Philippine flag was unfurled on June 12, 1898.

The Aguinaldo Shrine - Kawit, Cavite (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

The Aguinaldo Shrine - Kawit, Cavite (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

A visit to the shrine today gives the impression food was important in this household. The large home had two dining rooms and a vast kitchen filled with modern appliances of its time.

The larger dining room was for entertaining. For daily meals, the family used the smaller dining room. This one had a rectangle table which hid a secret passage leading to escape tunnels, vital during those tumultuous, revolutionary years.

The Aguinaldo's large dining room (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

The Aguinaldo's large dining room (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

In the kitchen the Aguinaldo home had a large stove with the general’s name inscribed on it. The stove top had eight huge burners fueled with apa or rice hulls.

The Aguinaldo stove had 8 large burners fueled by "apa" or rice hulls. (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

The Aguinaldo stove had 8 large burners fueled by "apa" or rice hulls. (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Another vital appliance was the large, refrigerator ice box. The Aguinaldo home was one of the first families in the Philippines to own this.

Historians cited the kitchen in the Aguinaldo home as not the traditional one found in Spanish homes. In the 1920s the house and kitchen were renovated. Typically in Filipino homes, large-scale cooking was done in separate, outdoor kitchens. It was in this outer kitchen where Felicidad, the general’s sister, prepared the day’s farm produce.

As the general and his men bravely conquered the war front, the women were just as vital to the homes. Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo maintained her compassion, cooperation and nurturance that were highly valued. Like women of her time, she knew how to provide the sustenance and balance at home and to inspire the men in the fight for freedom.  

Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo with General Emilio Aguinaldo (Photo from Facebook's 'Malacanan Palace' page)

Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo with General Emilio Aguinaldo (Photo from Facebook's 'Malacanan Palace' page)

Recipe for Adobong Dilaw

Just as Aguinaldo’s home and place in history has withstood the test of time, his wife, Maria’s nurturing ways have endured via this heirloom recipe. This is my modern version of the original one which Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo brought from her hometown in Batangas to Cavite. Author-historian, book designer and Cavite native Guillermo Ramos first told me about the origin of this recipe, which he traced to Aguinaldo’s second wife. Dilaw (Filipino for the color yellow) is the term for turmeric or luyang dilaw found in Cavite markets. Other recipe versions have pork cubes and chicken. This chicken Adobong Dilaw yields a rich stew which serves four.


2.5 to 3 pounds chicken pieces, bone-in, about 6 to 8 pieces
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
½ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup coconut milk (canned or fresh)
1 cup organic chicken broth
1 large red bell pepper, white membrane removed, sliced
2 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil
Boiled rice, for serving


  • Marinate the chicken cutlets with garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, black peppercorns, turmeric powder and salt. Place all these in a re-sealable plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  • In a large, deep stockpot, over medium high heat place the chicken and marinade. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, red bell pepper slices.

  • Bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 55 minutes or till chicken is cooked completely and no pink parts are visible.

  • When chicken is cooked, remove from stockpot. Separately in a large skillet, add the coconut oil. When oil is hot enough in about 1 to 2 minutes, add the chicken pieces. Braise the chicken till the pieces turn golden brown for about 7 to 8 minutes.

  • Pour the adobo sauce from the stockpot on the braised pieces. Serve adobong dilaw garnished with the red bell pepper strips and boiled rice.

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site

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