4 Things You Should Know to Make the Perfect Kare-Kare

May 29, 2021

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 completion.

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.


Use Oxtail—and 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 ingredients list.

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 Ingredients


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 Cold Pan


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 Peanuts


Kare-kare’s most 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 paste.

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!

 

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