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Adobong Manok (Chicken Adobo)

Recipe Courtesy of King Phojanakong

Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines.  It embodies the influence of the Mexicans, Spanish and Chinese in Filipino cooking.  Adobo was a popular dish among traveling seamen because of its long shelf life due to its high concentration in acidity and salt.


4 servings


- whole chicken, cut up (approx. 3lbs)

- 8 garlic cloves, crushed

- 1 tbls black peppercorns

- 5 Bay leaves

- 1 cup rice vinegar*

- 3/4 cup soy sauce

- 3/4 cup water

- 1/4 cup coconut milk


1) Combine all ingredients and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

2) Bring to simmer, cover, and braise for 40 minutes or until tender.

3) If desired, finish sauce with coconut milk and serve over rice.

* Typically the vinegar used is from sugar cane.  Almost any clear or distilled white works well as a substitute.

If location is essential to a restaurant’s success, Kuma Inn may be a study in going against the grain. Up a stairwell, in a nondescript former tenement building, the only clue that the restaurant exists is a chalkboard on the sidewalk.

Opened in 2003,when the south end of Ludlow was dark and dodgy, word about Kuma Inn was spread by people who worked in the restaurant business. King Phojanakong had cooked in some very prominent kitchens and fellow chefs were excited to see him open his own place. Seven years later, Kuma Inn is doing well enough that King decided to do it all over again and open his second restaurant in another up-and-coming area. This time in Bed-Stuy.

The food he serves could be described as Asian tapas. Small plate items that are influenced by his own background, half-Thai and half-Filipino.

When you opened Kuma Inn in 2003, there wasn’t much happening on Ludlow Street. How difficult was the decision to open up here, especially one flight up?

Most of the action on Ludlow was happening a few blocks north by Houston Street. The only other restaurant in the neighborhood was 71 Clinton where my friends Matt and Wiley were. The decision to open shop on Ludlow Street and on the second floor was really more scary than difficult. At the time, I had been looking for a space in the city for about a year. Not having found anything, I moved to California and was trailing for a job at Chez Panisse in Berkeley when a friend from New York called and told me about a space that I really had to see.

I fell in love with the space as soon as I saw it. It was the right size and the right price. I tapped out my credit cards, emptied my bank account and began construction. My parents thought I was crazy for opening up in a desolate street in Manhattan and on the second floor to boot. They didn't even want to enter the building the first time I took them there. I figured that if no one ventured up to the second floor and the restaurant failed, at least I would have a pretty good looking apartment with a pretty decent kitchen.

Considering that the location was off-the-beaten-track, how did you get the word out that you were there and who were your first customers?

The scariness really set in when I first opened the doors. It was a Wednesday in May and it just hit me. What did I do? I just opened on a block with no foot traffic, we're on the second floor, we don't have a sign, no PR etc., etc.

Luckily, I had a friend who put me in touch with someone at TimeOut NY and they loved the space and concept when they came by to fact check. TimeOut featured me in the Just Opened section and I timed my restaurant opening to coincide with the article coming out.  It was a Wednesday night and we did 16 covers that evening. I spoke with each table and asked how they found out about us. I still do this today since I still don't work with any PR company. Each table said that they had read about us in TimeOut that day. Word got out and our customer base grew. We started taking reservations a month after we opened.

Bravely, you opened up a second restaurant in another up-and-coming area. How did you pick Bed-Stuy?

Pretty much the same factors that affected my decision to open in the LES seven years ago went into choosing our new home in Bed-Stuy: great space, great price and a great neighborhood where we can grow together.

You have an open kitchen at Kuma Inn and people like seeing you there, any feelings that it impacts business if people know you’re at your other restaurant?

It's been making our Kuma fans come out to Brooklyn. I currently spend most of my time at Umi Nom, but I still drop in to Kuma Inn a few times a week to make sure things are going the way they're supposed to.

Can you explain how your two restaurants differ?

The menus at both restaurants differ, but the flavors and ingredients are the same. I like using the flavors and tastes of the Philippines, Thailand, Southeast Asia and New York. We serve a grilled pork belly adobo at Umi Nom, while we serve pulled pork adobo steamed buns at Kuma Inn.

With a larger budget the second time around, I was able to build a bar, a larger kitchen, and an outdoor dining area which will be open very soon.

What on your menu best sums up your work?

I would have to say it's the adobo we make at both restaurants. We prepare pork belly adobo in Brooklyn and chicken and pulled pork adobo at Kuma Inn in Manhattan. Adobo is my comfort food. It's something my mom would cook on a weekly basis and it's still something I love to eat today. It's a braise that's simple to put together but yields a complex flavor profile tasting sweet, salty and sour.

Which food purveyors inspire your creativity in the kitchen?

I love shopping the markets of Chinatown. I go everyday to shop for both restaurants. I can pick up Asian fruits and vegetables that I can't get from other purveyors. Many of our specials are based upon what we can pick up at the market that day.

Who else in your field is doing interesting things that you think should deserve more praise and why?

David Bank at Land Thai and Recipe is doing great things with food at both restaurants. He's able to bring out many flavors and tastes from his dishes and is able to reach the public with great food at great prices. It's a place where you can eat at more than once a week.

What are the least “chefy” and most “chefy” things you like to eat and why?

Foie gras and foie gras. It's something I hate to see on every menu, but it's something I love to eat, in moderation, of course.

What is your least favorite new culinary trend?

No comment. Mom always said that if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all.

Is there something you always keep in stock (ingredient or gadget) at your home that you would advise a home cook to stock?

Eggs and a good bottle of champagne. You can always whip up something quick and tasty with eggs and a good bottle of champagne is good anytime of the day.

Any exciting projects in your future?

Working on a cookbook, hopefully a consulting gig or two down the line, and spreading the word on Filipino food.

Is there a recipe we can get you to share?

Of course, the chicken adobo. (see below)

Can you share you favorite places for:

- Most authentic Thai?

Land Thai.

- Most authentic Filipino?

Purple Yam.

- Won’t break the bank, but has killer food?

Minca on East 5th Street. I love the ramen.

- Off the beaten track places to eat, that you’d be excited to take an

adventurous eater, and why?

Banh Mi Saigon on Mott St.  You've tried the rest, now try the best.

They're in the back of a jewelry store on Mott St.  This is the best banh mi you can get in NYC!

- Favorite late night place?

Wo Hop downstairs on Mott Street.

- Top five restaurants (other than your own restaurants, fancy or casual)

Land Thai: David is cooking up some of the best Thai food in NYC.

dell'Anima: Gabe and Katherine are a great team serving tasty pastas and desserts.

Minca: best ramen in NYC!

Vinny's (on Smith Street): chicken parm sandwich is the bomb!

Sapporo East: favorite neighborhood spot.

- Any places you’ve traveled to that you’ve had great meals?

Manokan Country, Bacolod, Philippines:  best grilled chicken and garlic rice in the world!

L'Arpege, Paris, France: I had an amazing meal with my then girlfriend and now wife. There were more cooks in the kitchen than guests in the dining room.

B & C BBQ, Wichita, Kansas: where else can you pick up a few antiques in the front and have some amazing BBQ in the back?  Had a great meal with family and friends.



Lower East Side

Asian / Filipino / Thai

113 Ludlow Street

New York, NY 10002




Sun - Wed: 6pm - 11pm

Thur- Sat: 6pm - 12am


Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy

Asian / Filipino / Thai

433 Dekalb Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11205




Mon - Sat: 11:30am - 3:30pm; 6pm - 11pm

Sun: closed


King’s recommendations on where to eat in New York and around the world.


King’s recommendations on where to eat in New York and around the world.

New Asian Cuisine: Fabulous Recipes from Celebrity Chefs

Purchase at: Amazon


- Gabe Thompson of Dell’Anima & L’Artusi