I’ve been married to my wife now for a couple of handful of years, and as she is from Filipino descent, I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface of Filipino cuisine. I’ve tinkered with giniling, adobo, afritada, lechon manok, the torta, chicharrones with rice, lumpia shanghai, and even a take on sisig, but there is one thing I haven’t tried yet, and that is kare-kare. You see, my father-in-law is from a province from the Philippines known as Papanga, and they are known for their cooking, and one of their traditional dishes is kare-kare.
Kare-kare is essentially a stew, typically made with oxtail, however other variations do exist. Now I’ve purchased oxtail for my father-in-law in the past, typically from my local Mexican supermarket, but I’ve never smelled, nor tasted this authentic Filipino stew. So as I was at the market a few weeks back, I saw some folks buying oxtail in bulk, and that led me to some interest. I moseyed over there and asked how they were going to make those oxtails. They politely said, that they braise them and serve them with vegetables. That sparked that idea of making kare-kare, and that’s when it began.
Let’s get started.
Now, let me state that not only was this awesome, but I got two thumbs up, with almost a bit of a giggle (because it was that good) from my father-in-law. That meant a lot to me. I also would state that you can go a number of different ways with kare-kare, but this was my take on it.
- 2 lbs oxtail, cut into 1 inch rounds
- 1/2 lb beef tripe, cleaned, roughly chopped
- 10 cups of water
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 bundle of snake beans, or green beans cut into 3 inch segments
- 5 baby bok choy, rinsed
- 4 baby Asian egg plant, cut in half
- 3 whole carrots, trimmed, and cut in half
- 1/4 cup of toasted, ground rice
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 heaping tbsp peanut butter
- 2 heaping tbsp roasted bagoong (shrimp paste)
- 1 tbsp annatto powder
- 2 tbsp canola oil
Start by adding water to a large soup pot. Add in the oxtail, and bring to a boil. When the scum comes to the surface, skim with a large spoon and discard. Continue boiling until all of the scum is removed, about 3 hours or so.
Next add in the tripe, black peppercorns, fish sauce, and bay leaf. Continue to cook at a low boil for about 1 hour, then remove from the stove and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Now you might be wondering why I put it in the refrigerator overnight. I do this, not only because my mother-in-law recommended it, but I knew that it was going to have fat from the oxtail that would surface, and I wanted to remove that for a cleaner stew.
So the next day, remove the pot from the refrigerator and remove the 1 inch hardened fat that surfaced.
Return the stock pot back to the stove, and bring to a medium heat.
The next couple of steps will get you to have a few pans on the stove. Once your stew comes back to a simmer, remove the oxtail from it and place them on a plate.
Next, heat up a small skillet on medium heat, and add in the oil, and the annatto powder. This gives the great color to the kare-kare. Bring to a gentle simmer, then add in the onions and garlic, cooking for about 5 minutes, then add the annatto oil mixture to the stock and give it a good stir.
Add in the roasted shrimp paste as well as the peanut butter and toasted rice. Give another good stir, and continue to simmer the stock.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a bit of oil onto the carrots and egg plants, and cooke until tender, about 30 minutes.
Next, get a stock pot out and add with water, about half way up. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the snake beans, and cook for a few minutes. Once cooked, add them to a bowl of ice water to blanch them. Strain and reserve them for later use.
Do the same with the bok choy.
To a large skillet, bring it to a medium-high heat, and add the oxtail. Brown both sides, and then return them back to the stock.
Now you are ready to serve.
Some will cook the vegetables in the stock, and I went a different route as suggested by our cousin in California. My father-in-law said this is ‘fancy’ kare-kare. I’ll take that.
When you are ready to plate, again, you can go a couple of different routes. I plated mine, arranging the oxtail and tripe, near the rice and array of vegetables, ladling the awesome sauce over the top. However you can add everything to a serving bowl, excluding the rice, mix, and serve. It’s entirely up to you.
When I offered my plating to my father-in-law, I think he was in a bit of shock. Not only how I performed with the classic Papangan kare-kare recipe, but how it was plated. He called me later in the day, thanking me of a job well done. Now I know what kare-kare is, and how awesome this stew was. By the way, have no fear of the oxtail or tripe. It’s a winning combination that will have you wanting more and more.
I hope you enjoy, and I hope to offer you a lot more Filipino recipes in the future.