Adobo Joe’s Facebook page tells the captivating story of its origins, beginning with owner Geronimo “Ron” Blancaflor as a 6-year-old boy growing up in the Philippines. Blancaflor, the oldest of seven children, routinely helped his parents in the kitchen, cooking rice in a clay pot over a wood stove. “Even though sometimes, well most of the time, I burned the bottom of the pot of rice,” the adult Blancaflor writes, “it would still all be eaten.”
The family moved to the United States when Blancaflor was 14, and after a 25-year career in the U.S. Army, he returned to his roots for inspiration for his second career as a food truck operator. He brushed up on his repertoire of traditional Filipino dishes, added a couple of his own creations for the food truck and hit the road with Adobo Joe last year.
I don’t know about you, but that story was enough to make me want to track Adobo Joe down and find out how the little boy who used to burn the rice is doing now.
Turns out he’s doing very well, indeed. Blancaflor will tell you that every household in the Philippines has its own recipe for adobo, the truck’s namesake that’s widely considered to be that country’s national dish.
It’s hard to imagine any of them outshining his rendition of pork adobo, which starts with pork shoulder, marinated overnight before simmering low and slow in a complex elixir of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, black pepper and bay leaf. After a three- or four-hour braise, the bite-size chunks of pork are juicy and fork-tender, ready to be ladled over steamed rice and garnished with chopped scallions and a bay leaf from the braising liquid.
Blancaflor also does a chicken adobo, which he serves over rice like the pork. You can also get it topped with a tangy-sweet slaw and served on a toasted bun, in a playful Filipino riff on a sloppy Joe called the Adobo Joe sandwich. Adobo wings, available hot or mild, are another tweak on the theme aimed at the food truck crowd.
Even the most traditional dishes on the menu are easy to like, though, given the polyglot of cultures – Spanish, Asian and American, mostly – that have influenced Filipino cuisine. If you like Chinese egg rolls or Vietnamese spring rolls, you’ll love lumpia, which are filled with a savory hash of ground beef and pork, shredded carrots, onions and garlic, hand-rolled in egg roll wrappers and fried to a crispy turn.
Pancit bihon, a stir-fried medley of rice noodles, cabbage, carrots, sugar snap peas and celery in a splash of subtly seasoned vegetable broth, is a vegan’s delight. Unless, that is, you spring for the optional chicken or shrimp.
I didn’t get to try the Filipino-style barbecue on a stick, which the menu describes as “chicken thighs skewered and grilled with a sweet and tangy sauce.” After seeing another customer walk away from the window with an order, though, you can bet I’m getting them next time. I’d like to try bicol express, too: “pork loins, sweet peppers, garlic, ginger, black pepper, fish sauce, sautéed in coconut milk, served over rice.” My mouth is watering just reading the description.
And, based on my experience, I know the rice will be perfectly cooked.