I talk about kare-kare
a lot because it has defined a huge part of my childhood and my relationship with my dear nanny who cooked this complex dish once a year on my birthday. One of my first cooking objectives when I moved to the US was to be able to make this dish myself, and being able to do so was so pivotal to my migration story that I relive it every time I make this dish and share the recipe.
I don’t like to keep recipes secret because this also suppresses the stories behind them. If I can share the joy of making and eating this dish with others, then my story and memories will live through others, and possibly even beyond me.
Kare-kare is a peanut-based stew made with peanut butter and rice. The secret ingredient of this dish is the rice that is roasted in a pan until brown and then ground until fine using a mortar (as in my youth), or a coffee grinder (something I discovered when I started making this myself). Kare-kare may be made with beef or pork, oxtail or pork tails, hocks or knuckles, beef tripe, vegetables, or seafood. It is a rich dish that is a regular in gatherings and fiestas, and is always memorable and in short supply. (Recipe below)
The most tedious part of this dish is softening the meat with water and onions on low heat.
This particular batch took three and a half hours to become tender.
A pressure cooker speeds up this process but some of the flavor is lost in the process as well.
The meat is tender when gaps appear between the meat and the bone.
This means that it is almost falling off the bone. Be careful not to let it get past that part.
My meat became very tender so I set it aside so it wouldn’t fall apart while I made the sauce.
While the meat is boiling, roast some rice in a pan until brown.
Cool and grind in a coffee blender until fine and smooth.
Peanut butter and annatto are mixed into the broth, resulting in an orange color.
The ground rice is added little by little until the desired consistency is reached.
When the sauce is made, the meat is returned to the pot.
The vegetables are added and simmered until cooked.
The resulting dish
Kare-kare is served with rice and a side of shrimp paste (bagoong).
Kare Kare (Oxtail Peanut Stew)
6-10 pieces oxtail
1 onion, chopped coarsely
4 tablespoons roasted rice (raw rice, roasted brown and ground using a coffee grinder)
1 cup peanut butter
1 bunch bokchoy (pechay)
String beans or sitaw, cut into 3 inch pieces
Eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces
Achuete/Annatto powder (for color)
In a pot, cook oxtail and onions with enough water to submerge them for about three hours or in a pressure cooker for 20-30 minutes. Set the meat aside and cook the stew separately. Simmer the sauce, add peanut butter and stir lightly until dissolved, about 15 minutes. Add ground roasted rice two teaspoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached (allow twenty minutes for the rice to thicken before adding more). Season with fish sauce. Add achuete/annatto until the desired color is achieved. Simmer for 15 more minutes or until vegetables till cooked, adding bokchoy last. Serve with bagoong (shrimp paste) and steamed rice.
From my kitchen, my childhood, and my heart – to yours. Kain tayo!