I was rather surprised that kare-kare (oxtail and peanut stew) would make the Top3 favorite Pinoy dishes of Market Manilaâ€™s readers. I have never been a huge fan of the dish but I decided I should try and make it myself and give it another chance. After reading up on the dish and reviewing at least 6 different recipes, I decided to try and make what I would consider to be the ultimate kare-kare. The first task was to assemble the ingredients that I would schlep to the beach where I was planning to test the recipe last Saturday. The four key ingredients I found just happened to be rather photogenic in a red and burgundy theme so I thought I would put them together in this post before I actually described the recipe and outcomeâ€¦ First up, I was going to use a generous cup or more of achuete or annatto seed. I have rarely cooked with this coloring agent before and I was fascinated by how intense its dye turned out to beâ€¦itâ€™s the reason for the near nuclear orange color of a kare-kare.
The other absolutely key ingredient had to be the oxtails. I have eaten many mediocre kare-kareâ€™s and I think part of the reason was substandard oxtails. Not to mention having problems finding any meat at all in the kare-kare. So I decided to go all the way and purchased some of the most expensive, and hopefully premium quality Australian oxtails. At PHP650+ a kilo, this blew a hole in my wallet. I got about 2.5 kilos worth. They were 4x the price of local oxtail but they did look betterâ€¦ And I had no intentions of making a small batch of this stew…I ended up making enough for 10-12 hungry diners! I also threw in some local beef shank to add flavor to the beef broth that I was planning to make from scratch.
Finally, I fretted about the peanut inputs to this dish. Often, the commercially purchased kare-kare is thick as mud and incredibly peanut tasting. One of our previous cooks who used to make this dish would add an ENTIRE large jar of local smooth peanut butter and I was shocked to find this outâ€¦it seemed like a whole lot of added sugar to the dishâ€¦hmmm, perhaps thatâ€™s why so many folks like it. Anyway, I decided to buy a small jar of Ludyâ€™s smooth peanut butter as a back up but I also wanted to buy fresh roasted peanuts to try and do this dish the old-fashioned way. By the time we got to Tagaytay, I still hadnâ€™t found fresh roasted peanuts so I bought raw peanuts in town, shucked them, dried them in the sun, roasted them and ground them up to add to the stewâ€¦
For vegetables, I found some good pechay or bok choy, some really fresh sitaw or yard long beans and a fine puso ng saging or banana blossom. I am not sure if using the red type of banana blossom/heart was inferior to the long white type of flower/heart but I didn’t know any better. To keep the banana heart an appealing color, soak it in an acidulated bath (water and some lemon juice) to keep it from turning black. All this prep work and focus on the ingredientsâ€¦think it made a difference? Keep tuned for the kare-kare a la Marketman up next!