Kare kare is a traditional Filipino meaty stew that is often prepared with oxtail.
This Filipino kare kare recipe is not for the faint of heart or the vegans following our blog! Filipino cuisine, as you might have seen by now, makes use of a lot of meat, often pork, and seafood. Definitely not a vegetarian friendly cuisine like Indian or Mediterranean cuisine.
How to cook kare kare?
Kare kare (or kare-kare) is an oxtail stew complemented by a thick peanut-based sauce, where a number of sautéed vegetables like bok choy, eggplant, string beans, daikon or banana flower are added to create a very comforting and hearty dish. The kare kare stew can also be prepared with pork hocks, calves feet, pig feet, beef stew meat, and sometimes offal or tripe. The ingredients may also include seafood like prawns, squid, and mussels, or just with vegetables.
This is not the first time I was cooking banana flower, this unusual ingredient that I used in the Laotian khao poon soup. However, in the past, I used mostly the pistils and not the actual flower itself. Banana flower, when cooked, looks like artichoke and has a texture similar to the one of barely cooked eggplant.
The kare kare recipe is flavored with ground roasted peanuts which give this very characteristic aroma similar to a number of popular recipes such as West African mafé, South American salsa de mani, Chinese soup fa sang woo, Indonesian salad gado gado, or satay, the famous Southeast Asian meat skewers coated with a peanut sauce.
Kare kare is then colored with annatto, a spice that is often used as food coloring and that we had already used in our arroz con pollo or picadillo de chayote. It is finally thickened with toasted ground rice, another traditional South Asian ingredient that I recently used in my Thai salad called larb kai.
What is the origin of kare kare?
There are several stories about the origins of this very unusual and distinctly Filipino recipe.
The first one comes from Pampanga, a province in the Central Luzon region, which is often considered the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. Since their version of kare kare is known all over the country as being one of the best, they are often credited with the invention of this unique stew.
Another possible story mentions the regal dishes of the Moro elite (Bangsamoro people), who settled in Manila before the Spanish arrival between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and are thought to have brought this nutty dish with them. Kare kare is a very popular and traditional dish in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, which are regions of the Philippines where the early Moro settlers first arrived, thus giving credibility to this story.
A third story and probably one of the most popular theories for the origin of kare kare talks about the Sepoy conscripts from Southern India who settled in the Philippines province of Rizal during the British Occupation in the seventeenth century. They improvised their own cuisine with the ingredients they could find, since they could not get access to the spices they were used to, including turmeric or coriander. They called it kari-kaari (as in curry), which eventually became kare kare.
Kare kare is one of those Filipino recipes that is supposed to go from the stove to the table. It is prepared in a clay pot and this same clay pot is used to serve the dish at the table. The stew, which is a favorite of Filipino celebrations and festivities, is often served with a small dish of fermented shrimp paste called bagoong on the side.
We liked this recipe but I do not think anyone loved it. This is really a matter of taste. I think I would have loved it without the peanut but hey, this would not be kare kare without peanut! Don’t be afraid and try this very unique dish that is definitely for the meat lovers!
- 3 lb oxtail , cut in 2 inch slices
- 1 banana flower , quartered
- 3 baby bok choys
- ½ lb green beans , cut into 2 inch-long pieces
- 2 Thai eggplants , cut in 2-inch long pieces
- 1 cup ground peanuts
- ¼ cup annatto seeds , soaked in 1 cup of hot water
- ½ cup toasted ground rice
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 onion , chopped
- ½ cup shrimp paste
- In a pressure cooker, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add the oxtail and the onion, then cook under pressure for about 45 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can simmer the oxtail on low to medium heat in a large pot for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Add the ground peanuts, the water from the soaked annatto seeds, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the toasted ground rice and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- In a separate large pan, sauté the garlic then add the banana flower, eggplant, and green beans. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the sautéed vegetables to the large pot with the oxtail stew. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with shrimp paste on the side.