Kare-Kare (Oxtail Stew with Peanut Butter)
Maybe some people will find this dish wacky in some ways, but this is a must try for those who want to sample, what is for me, one of the best stew’s you could ever have. And hey, maybe your kids would love it too since one of the essential ingredients in making this thing is peanut butter. Yeap! You read that right, peanut butter.
Kare-kare is a thick and savory beef stew and is made using peanut sauce made from peanut butter, assorted vegetables, oxtails with the cow’s skin still on, some offal’s or tripe. The resulting dish is actually quite mild to the taste and will suit the western palate pretty well. But since the Filipino taste buds are accustomed to a saltier range they usually accompany this dish with shrimp paste (called “bago-ong” in Filipino) as a condiment. Kare-kare and bago-ong: marriage made in heaven and consummated in the Filipino stomach.
Just like in the old saying “if you are famous, many will fight over you”; there are some conflicting claims as to where this dish first originated. The two most vociferous claims comes from the people in the Province of Pampanga in the island of Luzon and the Muslim Tribes in Mindanao. The Muslim tribes claim that this was a dish served for the Muslim aristocrats who lived in the area now known as Manila, way before the coming of the Spaniards. Interestingly enough, this dish is very popular in both places.
When you try cooking this you should use homemade peanut butter, for that authentic Filipino flavor; homemade peanut butter is less sweeter and more oily than what you could get off the shelf. If you are in the Philippines you could easily buy homemade peanut butter in the local markets, but if you are in the United States or some other western lands, good luck with that. If you can’t buy any homemade peanut butter you could make your own; don’t be a lazy sod, twiddle those fingers and get that ass off the chair once in a while.
I really don’t know what the word “kare-kare” means, so I won’t try explaining it to you and don’t ask me, alright?
Here is the recipe for an Authentic and Traditional Kare-kare:
½ kilo of beef, cut into cubes
Note: for a more traditional and authentic Kare-kare try using beef tripe instead or just use only oxtail. Or you could just a combination of beef, beef tripe, and oxtail.
If you want to use only oxtail in your kare-kare make it 1 kilo.
½ kilo oxtail (cut 2 inch long)
3 cups of peanut butter
1/4 cup grounded toasted rice (for more thick & sticky consistency, use sticky rice)
3 heads of garlic, minced
3 onions, diced
4 tablespoons, atsuete oil (for that authentic yellowish color)
Note: if you don’t have one you could use yellowish food coloring.
4 pieces eggplant, sliced 1 inch thick
1 bundle of string beans (sitaw), cut to 2 inches long
Note: one bundle of string beans may contain from 7 to 16 pieces.
1 bundle Bok Choy (Pechay), cut into 2 pieces
Note: one bundle of Bok Choy may contain from 2 to 4 pieces.
1 banana bud (puso ng saging), cut into one inch strips,
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 cups of water
Blanch in boiling water the banana bud for about 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a stock pot, boil beef and ox tail in water for an hour or until cooked and the meat is very tender. Strain and keep the stock. Make sure that there is enough water and that the fire is not burning too high. The key to a good karekare- is to have the meat slow cooked to have all those wonderful juices extracted from the ox tail and that the meat and skin is very tender and could be cut with a fork.
Note: the key to having enough water for the stock is that before boiling the water level should almost cover the meat and when already cooked the water level should be at about 1/2 of the original level.
Remove the scum that may rise up to the surface. And reserve the stock.
In a big pan or wok, heat oil and atsuete oil.
Note: if you do not have the atsuete oil, you could mix your food coloring with some vegetable oil and use it in this step.
Sauté garlic and onions until it is golden brown, then add the stock, toasted rice, beef, ox tail and peanut butter. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt based on your taste.
Add the eggplant, string beans, pechay and banana bud. Cook the vegetables for about 2-4 minutes. Do not overcook the vegetables or they will become too soggy.
The resulting product should have a thick consistency and somewhat mild to the taste.
Serve shrimp paste (bagoong) on the side and hot steamed rice.