Sunday, October 12, 2014

Going nuts for Mom's Kare-Kare (oxtail stew)!

Kare-Kare with bagoong
My Mom's kare-kare dish brings back delicious memories celebrating loved ones' birthdays, holidays and parties. It's a savoury melt-in-your-mouth oxtail stew braised in a smooth and rich orange peanut sauce packed with lots of hearty veggies like eggplant, long green beans and bok choi. Kare-kare's bold flavours are enhanced by pairing it with a heaping spoonful of distinctly Filipino flavouring, bagoong, sauteed fermented shrimp paste.

When my Mom taught me how to cook kare-kare, I soon realized why this dish is saved for special occasions. The cooking process is a labour of love, requiring hours to tenderize the oxtail in boiling water plus oxtail is pricey! Knowing how much time and money Mom would spend on kare-kare, makes me appreciate this dish so much more, thanks Mom;)

Similar to many Filipino dishes, kare-kare is considered comfort food but its origins is a complex meld of various cultural influences.

Depending on your source, there is a debate on where kare-kare originated from.  Some say it was introduced by the Spanish who brought in peanuts and annatto seeds when they brought in trade from China and South America. While there are those who claim kare-kare because of the thick peanut sauce looks like Indian curry or by the Japanese term kare (meaning curry) when they were doing business in the Philippines during the pre-colonial times.  Regardless of kare-kare's origins, the dish is uniquely Filipino with the oxtail and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).  

Mom's awesome kare-kare
I'm also learning more Tagalog while cooking with Mom. Here are some phrases she recently taught me:
Mag luluto ako ng kare-kare. (I'm going to cook kare-kare.)
Sana ma gustu han ninyo ang akin ni luluto! (Hope you'll enjoy what I cooked!)
She's a strict teacher and said practice makes perfect...I'm guessing my Tagalog needs work, haha. It's actually a lot of fun cooking with Mom while she shares stories of growing up in the Philippines to how she taught herself to cook all the while keeping me in check with my budding culinary skills.

For over 2 hours in the kitchen, I was excitedly learning my Mom's kare-kare recipe because it has been lovingly prepared so many times so it's been tried, tested and true. So now, here it is for you!

Kare-kare ingredients
- 1.5-2lbs fresh oxtail, chopped into 2" pieces and washed
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium Asian eggplant (talong), sliced into 2"  long x 1/4" thick sticks
- 20 pieces of long string beans (sitaw), cut into  2" long strips
- 8 pieces of medium bok choy, cut into quarters lengthwise
- 1 large yellow onion, medium diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup smooth organic peanut butter
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 1 tbsp annatto powder
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (patis)
- salt & pepper to taste

1) Add 3.5 litres of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Submerge chopped oxtail and boil for 2 hours or until tender. If you cook the oxtail a day before, place in the fridge to continue cooking the following day.
Tip: Since tenderizing the oxtail takes time, Mom recommends that you prep the oxtail (2 hours in boiling water or 6-8 hours in a slow cooker), a day in advance. This way, you can also skim off the fat from the broth the next day for a leaner kare-kare sauce!
2) While the oxtail is cooking, to a heated large sauce pan, add the oil and saute the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt until translucent. Cook the eggplant, green beans and bok choy with oxtail broth, saute until tender. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.
3) Add peanut butter to sauce pan where you cooked your veggies. Stir in 8 cups of oxtail broth until peanut butter is runny and dissolved into liquid. Meanwhile, cook rice flour in a small pan until lightly toasted. Add toasted rice flour to peanut sauce and stir until sauce thickens. 
4) Place tenderized oxtail and veggies into peanut stew and stir. Once oxtail and veggies are coated with sauce, serve with Mom's bagoong with steamed white rice. Masarup!

Mom's bagoong
Mom's bagoong
- 1 tsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup sauteed bagoong (recommended brand: Barrio Bagoong)
- 1/2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of water
- salt & pepper to taste

1) To a heated medium sauce pan, add the oil and saute the onion with a pinch of salt until translucent. 
2) Add the garlic and tomatoes and saute until tender, 5 minutes. 
3) Stir in the bagoong, lemon juice and water to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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