Turkey butts are not really traditional Thanksgiving or Filipino food.
But Filipino cookbook author and Aloha Plate food truck chef Adam Tabura makes a garlic turkey tail adobo that he says is the perfect snack to eat while the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is in the oven or imu.
Tabura’s family on Lanai didn’t go to the supermarket for Thanksgiving turkey — they went out with shotguns and bagged wild birds.
They’d then cook the turkeys in an imu. But his grandfather noticed that the tails would melt in the imu, blending into the shredded meat.
“He thought, ‘Why not make another meal out of it?’” Tabura said.
So they began cutting off the tails and cooking them separately from the rest of the bird. Initially, because Lanai is a plantation town and it was common to blend ethnic cooking styles, they flavored the turkey tails like shoyu chicken.
Then Tabura got the idea of making garlic adobo turkey tails, to add a more sour and spicy edge, rather than salty and sweet.
The garlic, bay leaves and vinegar also help take the gaminess out of the wild turkey meat.
Growing up, Tabura said he didn’t really like eating turkey tails. After hunting, butchering, carrying the turkey out of the wilderness and then plucking the feathers, he just got tired of looking at the bird.
There are also a lot of feathers on the tail, and every so often you might get a feather tube in the tail.
Tabura likes them now. “It goes with beer,” he said.
Last week, he brought some turkey tails from a recent hunt to prepare them for a taste test at the Ferguson Showroom in Kalihi. After simmering the tails in adobo sauce, he threw in some adobong sili peppers from his garden for color and flavor (they are more sweet than hot).
Although the bird is wild, the tails still have a lot of fat and the vinegar helps cut through that to create an oily, tasty bite. The meat isn’t gamy, instead soaking up the fatty, sour flavor.
Garlic Turkey Tail Adobo
Here’s Tabura’s recipe from his “A Filipino Kitchen” cookbook, published by Mutual Publishing Co. and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
If you aren’t a hunter, you can buy turkey tails or substitute chicken wings or thighs.
- 2 to 3 pounds turkey tails, cleaned and halved
- 1-1/2 gallons water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup crushed and chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns
- 4 to 5 bay leaves, cracked
- 3 teaspoons Hawaiian salt, or to taste
- 5 to 6 fried whole garlic cloves, for garnish
- 1/2 pound adobong green sili peppers
Place turkey tails in water with salt in large pot. Bring to a boil; skim fat. Boil 4 to 5 more minutes. Drain.
Place turkey tails into a clean pot with all the remaining ingredients except the peppers. Bring to a light simmer and cook for 35 to 40 minutes until tender. Liquid will reduce. In the last 5 to 6 minutes, add peppers and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serves 4 to 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.
Web producer Craig Gima tries out new foods in a video and print series every other Wednesday. Dare him to try a really scary food: firstname.lastname@example.org.