My First Try at Kare-Kare
I’ve always thought that making Kare-Kare, a peanut stew made of slow-cooked beef oxtail (some add tripe and beef shanks), and blanched vegetables to be painstakingly hard. It seemed complex, so I always look forward to whenever I get to visit my family and make my request and cravings known. Although it is one of my favorite Filipino dishes, I have never once made it myself -- until now.
I went to the one Asian market I know in Birmingham that sells all kinds of Asian knick-knacks, produce and live seafood. It also has a connected dine-in restaurant that used to be a little hole in the wall. Every time my family comes to town, it has become an unspoken tradition to visit Red Pearl at least once and order pounds of lobster, sautéed shrimp with heads, fried whole fish (whatever's in season) in sweet and sour sauce, and sizzling tofu with mixed vegetables. My mama would say, “We feast like kings!” and orders a Thai milk tea with boba pearls in it.
I looked up recipes online and for the most part, the main ingredients of Kare-Kare include bok choy, eggplant, green beans, onions, garlic, peanut butter, anatto powder for that rich orange hue, and of course, beef oxtail. But Kare-Kare is not complete without a minuscule lick of "bagoong" before you take in a good, hearty bite. No one can forget the smell and taste of a sautéed shrimp paste.
I recently got myself an Instant Pot, which has helped me debunk some of my fears of making Filipino dishes because most of them take a long, arduous time in the kitchen. Now that I have a pressure cooker, I find myself imagining my dad, my siblings, my lolas, titos and titas, my mama making kare-kare, lingering in the kitchen, and telling myself, I think it’s time, “Ako naman.” My turn.
- 3 pounds oxtail
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 large Chinese eggplant, sliced 1 in thick
- 2 bundle string green beans cut into 2 inch slices
- 4-5 stalks Bok Choy
- 1/4 cup annatto seeds soaked in 1/2 cup of warm oxtail broth OR 2 packs of Mama Sita’s Kare-Kare Mix
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Sautéed shrimp paste (for serving on the side)
- Combine the oxtail, five cups of water, half of the chopped onions and kosher salt in a pot. Simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. If using a pressure cooker, time is shortened to 45 minutes. If using an instant pot, pressure cook for 30 minutes and natural pressure release (NPR) for 10 minutes.
- Reserve 4 cups of oxtail broth. 1/2 cup can be used to soak the annatto seeds. If you don’t have annatto seeds, Mama Sita’s Kare-Kare Mix will do.
- Blanch the eggplant, green beans and bok choy and set aside.
- Using a stove top, sauté garlic and the remaining onion in the olive oil over medium heat in a pot. Add the oxtail and let all the ingredients caramelized. Next, pour 1/2 cup of oxtail broth infused with the annatto seeds (strain the seeds and discard–you don’t add the seeds to the kare-kare). If you don’t have annatto seeds, pour the remaining cup of oxtail broth and add 2 packs of Kare-Kare Mama Sita’s Mix and 3/4 cup of peanut butter.
- Let it simmer for a few minutes until the broth bubbles and thickens to a stew. Taste and add salt to your liking.
- Add the blanched vegetables and serve with steamed white rice and shrimp paste.