Kare-kare is a traditional Filipino ox tail stew in a peanut-based sauce. Because the recipe varies from family to family and person to person, what follows is a version of how this dish is made in my family.
NOTE: This recipe is time intensive. If you need it for a party, function, or family gathering, it would be wise to cook it (or begin cooking it) a day in advance.
Also, if your Nanay or Lola or Tita Gi make it better, feel free to contribute, comment, or, you know...criticize. You know you want to.
This instructible, the first in a series on Filipino food, is dedicated to my sweet mother (and unofficial collaborator), Rosvida, who took the time to teach her cooking-impaired, multi-culti, half-breed baby how to make this delicacy. Those matronly Filipina hands that you see in most of the photographs and video files belong to her. Maraming salamat po!
Step 1: Gather Ingredients.
You will need the following:
-3 packages ox tail (2 lbs.) - 6lbs. total
-4 Asian ('Oriental') purple eggplant (the Chinese Ma-Zu and Ping Tung varieties work well)
-one fistful (aprox. 14 pieces) of long string beans (sitaw)
-4 small bok choy
-1 large onion
-(approx.) 1/4 cup (or less) uncooked rice
-1 package Mama Sita's Stew Base Mix (Pang Kare-Kare)
-1 jar peanut butter
-salt (2 tsp. or to taste)
-pepper (2 tsp. or to taste)
ESSENTIAL COOKING GEAR:
-1 8 qt. pot (if you have an extra one, plan on using it. if not, don't worry.)
-1 collander or strainer big enough to hold 6lbs. of ox tail, and, later, your vegetables
This recipe yields a family-size portion.
Also, this recipe contains more vegetables than usually used in the stew. If you prefer it with less, reduce the number of eggplant and bok choy.
Step 2: Trim and rinse the meat.
This stew tends to be on the fatty side if you don't trim the ox tail; if fat is an issue to you, trim the excess fat. After you trim each piece, rinse it under running water and put it in your 8 quart pot. If you do not wish to trim your ox tail pieces, simply rinse them and place them in the pot.
Step 3: Boil to soften the meat and to remove additional fat.
Fill the pot with enough water to cover the pieces. Bring to a boil, then continue boiling for 15 minutes. After this, dump the first boil, and rinse the meat to further remove fat and dirt that hasn't (yet) been cleaned off. After you rinse the meat, fill the pot to with enough water to cover the ox tail, and boil it for a second time. (If the fat content of this stew is not an issue to you, skip the second boil.)
If you have a second 8 quart pot handy, bust it out. If not, keep the meat in a collander or strainer and clean your pot to remove the fat (and dirt) you've boiled out.
Step 4: Begin cooking your stew.
Put your meat into the pot and fill it with just enough water to cover the ox tail pieces. Begin cooking on a high flame. Add salt (approx. 2 tsp, or to taste), and pepper (approx. 2 tsp, or to taste).
Step 5: Chop your onion.
While the stew has started to cook, chop your large onion. It doesn't mater how--rings or large chunks work fine. Dump your chopped onion into the pot.
Step 6: Cook it! Cook it good.
Bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, and then continue to cook, covered, letting it simmer on a medium flame for 1.5-2 hours.
Remember to stir periodically.
Note: The decision of how long to cook your stew at this point determines how tender your meat will be--1 hour yields harder meat, 1.5 yields fairly tender meat, 2 hours should leave you with incredibly tender meat. (In our household, we prefer and recommend cooking it on the tender side.)
The steps that follow are meant to be done as the stew is cooking. Keep an eye on your timer. These steps coincide with particular time marks that will be stated. If you plan to cook your kare kare for only a hour and a half, adjust the time on these steps as you see fit.
Step 7: Brown your rice.
About 10 minutes before the stew hits the one hour mark, begin to brown your rice.
To do this, first heat your pan on a medium/medium high flame. Once it is hot enough, pour your rice into it. Because you will be cooking it on a relatively high flame, it's important to keep the rice moving so you don't burn it.
When the rice is finished browning, put it in your stew to thicken--you should be doing this at around the 1 hour mark. Cook for approximately 30 minutes.
Step 8: Cut your vegetables.
While the stew is cooking, cut and clean your eggplant, boy choy, and sitaw. If you are unfamiliar with some of the vegetables and how to handle them, some basic guidelines are provided below:
Clean each eggplant. Cut off the ends and any damaged portions. When you chop it, all pieces should approximately be 2.5 inches long. Cut any larger pieces into quarters.
Chop off ends. Carefully clean individual bok choy leaves.
Clean, then break sitaw with hands so that you are left with pieces about 2.5 inches long.
When you are done, leave your vegetables off to the side.
Step 9: Create and add the peanut base.
Start your peanut base:
Empty approximately 2/3 cup of peanut butter into a large bowl. (We used a large measuring cup...it was handy at the time.) Pour the package of Mama Sita powder onto the sauce. Pour three cups of broth from the stew into the bowl.
Before you pour the peanut base into the stew, you'll need to remove any excess broth from the pot. Ladle out the excess until only 3 cups remain. Discard.
Now pour your peanut base into the stew.
Adding the finished peanut base to the stew:
(See pictures for individual steps.)
Step 10: Mix your vegetables into the stew.
Gradually add the vegetables you've just set aside into the stew. Stir as you add each.
Cook for 30 minutes more.
Step 11: Serve!
Hey, food's done. Spread the love and share!
Grab some rice, and some bagoon, and enjoy.