Traditionally made with oxtail, tripe, and a medley of local
vegetables, kare-kare is a fixture at
fiesta tables all over the
Philippines and is often considered one of the centerpiece dishes during
celebrations and gatherings. This rich and creamy peanut-based stew is quite
the labor of love to make, though, and it thus can be difficult to master. Home
cooks are often daunted by the complexity of the dish, the number of
ingredients involved, and the amount of preparation required to bring it to
If you love this classic Filipino stew, you likely already
have a favorite beef kare kare recipe that you often go back
to, but if you have your own recipe that you think can still be elevated, this
is the post for you. Here are a few tips and tricks that you can take into consideration
in order to bring your version of kare-kare
to the next level and wow everyone at your next party.
Prepare It Properly
While you can make
kare-kare with any protein you want,
be it chicken, pork, or even fish, true
kare-kare makes use of oxtail, no
exceptions. Specifically, the most authentic and arguably best version of the
dish combines oxtail with beef tripe and stewing beef, usually cut into cubes.
It’s the collagen in the oxtail and tripe that gives kare-kare that distinctive sticky, coats-the-tongue mouthfeel, and
you’ll find yourself missing out should you choose to remove it from the
You can buy oxtail at the meat section of your favorite
supermarket, usually already cut and cleaned. If you’re sourcing it from your
local public market, you may need to inspect the pieces thoroughly for leftover
hairs. These can simply be shaved off with a disposable razor. The tripe may
need to be cleaned and prepared beforehand as well, depending on where you get
it from. Use an old toothbrush dipped in a bit of vinegar to loosen and remove
any black bits that may have gotten caught in between the fibers of the tripe.
You can also take this opportunity to trim the tripe of any excess fat that you
may not want going in your dish.
Look for The Freshest
Starting with the best ingredients almost always guarantees
a stunning finished product. Good meat is only half the equation in kare-kare—the vegetables are equally as
important, and sourcing them fresh is worth the effort. Go for eggplants that
are firm to the touch and string beans that are a bright, vibrant green.
Similarly, your banana blossom should also be dense to the touch and its petals
should be tightly packed.
To prepare these vegetables, simply chop them into
bite-sized pieces. It’s best to do this close to the end of cooking to prevent
them from darkening. Soaking chopped vegetables in water mixed with a squeeze
of calamansi juice can also slow down oxidation.
Sauté the Garlic in a
When learning how to fry for the first time, most people are
taught to heat the oil in the pan first before adding the ingredients. For a
more aromatic kare-kare, though,
you’ll want to set that advice aside. Cooking your oil and garlic in a cold pan
slowly releases its flavor and helps it cook more evenly. Because garlic cooks
so quickly, doing so can also prevent you from burning it. There’s a reason why
the Italians do it this way, and it’s a technique worth borrowing if you want
to maximize the flavor in your stew without using artificial seasonings.
Don’t Skimp on the
well-known component is the sticky peanut sauce that instantly covers
everything it touches, from grains of white rice to the roof of your mouth.
That distinct flavor simply can’t be faked, nor can it be achieved through
shortcuts or substitutions. Do not
skimp on the peanuts. Buy more than you think you’ll need. Do not think you can have perfect kare-kare using only peanut butter.
Some people choose to grind their own peanuts at home, and
there are various ways to do this. The mortar-and-pestle method can be
laborious, but you will be able to control the texture of the finished paste
better through it. You can also put the peanuts in a zip-lock bag and crush
them using a meat mallet or heavy-bottomed pan. This will result in larger
peanut chunks that can add some crunch to the finished dish, which some people
find enjoyable. Alternatively, you can use a food processor to make quick work
of the task. Simply add a bit of water and rice flour to the bowl to create a
If you do not wish to crush your own peanuts, you can buy
them pre-crushed or ground at most public markets.
Ideally, a combination of freshly ground peanuts and peanut
butter should go into your kare-kare.
Look for a peanut butter brand that isn’t too sweet, or it will lend that
flavor to the stew.
With these tips, you shouldn’t have any trouble impressing
your guests with your improved kare-kare.
Try them out today!