MANILA, Philippines – Could it be the hot steaming rice smothered with rich nutty sauce? Maybe the crunch of fresh vegetables cooked just right paired with tender oxtail meat? Perhaps the hit of salty and pungent shrimp paste that seems to amplify all of the above? Does it even matter?
All I know is, kare-kare is easily my all-time favorite Filipino dish.
So it is with great excitement, salivation and a little bit of trepidation (I’ve never made kare-kare before!) that I bring our independence month celebration to an end with a version of this dish by no other than Chef Fernando Aracama.
It only takes a short conversation with Chef Ferns to find out that he truly loves and, more importantly, enjoys food and everything that comes with it. He is also absolutely hilarious. For reasons I cannot elaborate on, I assure you he is the best person to be stuck with on a long flight.
I’m sure many of you know him as one of the host-judges of “Masterchef Pinoy Edition.” Culinarily, you might remember him for the Choc-Nut ice cream he concocted at Uva. If you’ve tried his food at the eponymous Filipino fusion restaurant located at the Fort Strip, you know you’re in for the real deal!
His recipe serves 6 and you’ll need:
- 1 kg oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces
- ¼ cup oxtail fat
- ½ cup chopped onions (or 1 medium onion)
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup thick peanut butter
- 1/3 cup or more ground toasted rice (recipe follows)
- 3 T achuete seeds, soaked in ¼ cup hot water for 30 minutes then strained
- 1 t sea salt or to taste
- 2 T fish sauce or to taste
- About 20 pieces string beans, sliced
- 3 eggplants, cut on the bias and soaked in water
- 4 heads pechay, halved lengthwise
1. Wash the oxtails and place in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until the meat is fork tender, about two hours.
While waiting for your oxtail to cook would be a good time to make ground toasted rice. All you have to do is toast the rice on a dry pan on low heat while stirring constantly until the grains are brown and aromatic.
Once cooled, you can grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. I used about half a cup of rice just in case I wanted to thicken my sauce some more. Set aside.
2. Remove the oxtails and set aside. You can skim off the oxtail fat on top of the broth right away or you can cool the broth first to easily remove the solidified fat later.
My oxtails were on the lean side and didn’t yield much fat although I had enough to cook with. Also, I opted to put the oxtails whole into the pot and remove the meat in chunks using my hands once they were cool.
3. Heat the oxtail fat in a pot. Add chopped onions and garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
Add peanut butter and 4-5 cups of the reserved oxtail broth. Stir to mix well.
My cooled broth looked beautiful, by the way – gelatinous and bodacious, a promise of flavorful and rich sauce.
4. Stir in the ground, toasted rice. Add cooked oxtail, salt, fish sauce and achuete water to the pot.
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. At this point, the sauce should neither be too thick nor too soupy.
5. Adjust seasoning to taste (I found that I preferred lots more peanut butter). Add in vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking.
You didn’t forget to make rice, did you? Hot and plain, please! Serve with your favorite bagoong.
You’re salivating. I see you.
This just might be the one to beat your Mom’s kare-kare, kids! I realize that’s a tall order. It may also be because my Mom doesn’t cook kare-kare.
She is, however, a hardcore fan of the dish. I have taken her to several Filipino restaurants where we would order it without fail and, I kid you not, I have never seen her so satisfied. It was all she could do not to scrape the bottom of the rice cooker!
Shortly after making this, I was pronounced the designated kare-kare cook of the family with duties to be performed at least once a month. I would like to share this honor with Chef Ferns.
May the kare-kare gods always smile upon you, Chef Ferns! – Rappler.com
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