adobo dish Filipino

Apan-Apan/ Adobong Kangkong ng Ilongga (Water Spinach Adobo with Shrimp Paste)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014Enz F

Iloilo serves as the Philippine gateway to its Southern Region. It has been regarded as the food basket and rice granary of Western Visayas and the hometown of a famous fierce Filipina senator. People of Iloilo are referred to as “Ilonggo” and their native dialects are Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a. This Visayan province that once claimed to be the “Queen City of the South” takes great pride of its regional version of Adobong Kangkong (Water Spinach Adobo), popularly known to them as Apan-apan. The word "apan-apan" actually means "grasshopper". Farmers used to catch grasshoppers thriving in and infesting the rice fields. They would cook these insects for pulutan (finger food) or sum-suman to pair with their alcoholic drink. How it became associated with adobong kangkong is quite vague except probably that grasshoppers resemble the appearance and the color of the water spinach plant.

Ilonggo takes pride of their very own Water Spinach Adobo, locally known as Apan-apan.
Guinamos is also known as belacan in Malay and terasi udang in Indonesian. Photo Credit: Market Manila 
Unlike the adobong kangkong variation of the Tagalog Region which simply uses soy sauce and vinegar, this Ilonggo favorite is distinct for the use of of a popular Visayan ingredient, guinamos. It is made from fermented anchovies or shrimp, usually molded in blocks when sold in local markets. 

Apan-apan is an Ilonggo word which when literally translated means "grasshopper".
Shrimp paste is also known as belacan in Malay and terasi udang in Indonesian. When I cooked apan-apan, I instead used the more commong bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp in paste) since guinamos not available in Manila. I must say this adobo version is much flavorful and it goes perfectly as accompaniment for fried dishes along with plenty of hot steamed rice.

Apan-Apan/ Adobong Kangkong ng Ilonggo (Water Spinach Adobo with Shrimp Paste)
Number of Servings: 6

  • 1 bunch of kangkong (water spinach), leaves separated and soft stems cut into 1½-inch pieces 
  • ¼ cup vinegar (sugar cane or coconut vinegar) 
  • 3 tbsps. soy sauce 
  • ½ cup water 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 medium-sized onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 3 pieces medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
  • ¼ lb. pork or beef, sliced into small cubes 
  • 1 tbsp. guinamos or bagoong alamang (shrimp paste) 
  • salt and pepper, to taste 
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tbsps. water (optional) 
  • 1 block tokwa (tofu), sliced crosswise 1 cm. thick 
  • cooking oil 
  1. Combine the water and vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. 
  2. Add the kangkong leaves and stems. Set to simmer for 5 minutes or shorter, just enough for the vegetables to shrink a bit. Add soy sauce and season with pepper. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  3. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to sliced tokwa and deep fry until brown and crunchy. Transfer on paper towel to dry the excess oil. Cut the fried tofu into small cube slices and set aside. 
  4. In a separate pan, heat the oil and sauté the garlic, onion and tomatoes until very fragrant. 
  5. Add in meat and stir fry to lightly brown. Put the guinamos or alamang and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add a little liquid from the boiled kangkong if the mixture begins to dry. 
  6. Add the boiled kangkong including the liquid on the guinamos sauce. Mix to combine all the ingredients. 
  7. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and simmer until the sauce slightly thickens. 
  8. Remove from heat and transfer the cooked apan-apan in a platter. Sprinkle with some diced fried tofu and serve along with steamed rice. Enjoy!

  1. Any kind of cooking vinegar can be used. Balance the acidity by adjusting the ingredients. 
  2. Apan-apan is best served along with fried dishes like fried daing na bangus (vinegar-soaked milkfish fillet) and crispy pata (pork belly). 
  3. Regular spinach, bok choy (Chinese cabbage) and choi sum (Chinese flowering cabbage) can be used as substitutes for kangkong.

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