Kare-Kare a la Marketman


I read somewhere (perhaps in the Inquirer a few months back) that some folks attribute kare-kare to an Indian curry either by early migrants from India or elsewhere in Southeast Asia where Indians had moved. It is believed that the curry was adapted to locally available ingredients. kare2There is also a view that this dish is somewhat similar to the Indonesian gado-gado and influence may have come from there as well. Whatever its provenance, we now know it’s a pinoy favorite. So I wanted to attempt to cook it. I referred to several recipes before I decided to attempt to make kare-kare. I cut and paste ingredients, methods, proportions from several of the recipes and added a dose of my views on what it should taste like to result in this recipe that can feed up to 12 hungry folks. First, make a nice flavorful broth from scratch. Put 2.5 kilos of good oxtails and about ¾ kilo beef shank on the bone in a wide bottomed pot and cover with cold water (about 2-2.5 liters). Add one chopped onion, one small rib of celery and about 15 peppercorns. Bring to a boil and let this simmer for about 2-2.5 hours or until the oxtails are quite tender. Remove the oxtails, strain out the other ingredients and reduce this broth further to say 8-9 cups of fragrant and tasty (albeit no salt) liquid. Set this aside.

Soak your achuete seeds in about 1-1.5 cups of room temperature kare3water for 30 minutes and mash them a bit with a spoon. Strain this and discard achuete seeds, set the colored water aside. In a good food processor, blitz about a cup of white rice (uncooked) until it looks like a coarse flour. Toast this powdered rice in a dry pan over medium heat until it turns a light brown but do not burn it. Set this aside as well. Assemble your cleaned vegetables and blanch the banana blossom if you want. Cut the beans, bok choy and eggplants into nice serving sized pieces. Heat up a large pan and sauté 2 chopped white onions until soft. Add about half a tablespoon on chopped garlic and stir. Add the achuete colored water and the cooked meats and stir.

Add about 6-8 cups of the beef broth you made earlier and have it reach a boil. Add about 2/3 of your toasted rice powder, about 6-8 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, and about ½ cup of ground freshly roasted peanuts. Add more rice powder or peanuts to taste and to your desired level of kare4viscosity of the sauce. I found I had to add a bit more rice flour because the pot I was using was just huge… After about 10 minutes boiling and mixing together, add all the vegetables except the bok choy and simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the bok choy last and the juice of about 8 kalamansi and about 2 minutes later you are ready to serve it with some nice steamed rice. A condiment of cooked bagoong alamang (shrimp paste) is an absolute necessity for this dish. Without it you might as well eat something else. How did it turn out? Pretty good, if I may say so myself. It had terrific soft and flavorful meat, a less than mud-like consistency for the liquid, and a pleasant peanut taste. However, I must say this is not one of my favorites…I find it isn’t too distinctive at all. Give me a nice Indian or Thai curry any day instead. Kare-kare is always at risk of being overly sweet, lacking in flavor (other than peanut butter out of a bottle) or possessing a bizarre mouth feel. It can come across as tasting paste-y and I think it is the bagoong that makes the dish more than anything else. As always, I gravitated more to the vegetables and had just one large oxtail. Don’t misunderstand my negative streak, it was good. But I don’t think this dish will ever be great, in my opinion…


38 Responses

  1. Marketman, why? What have I done to you??? I’m on my 3rd day of maniacal diet and gym regimen and you post glistening shots of kare-kare! Such seduction! What glorious gastroporn! I’m SO NOT liking you today…. Humph…. Eating oatmeal as I type..

  2. MM — In our house, we pair kare-kare with pork adobo. Lethal combo I know but there’s something about the marriage of two dishes on the table that makes for a fiesta-calibre dining …

  3. Indian influence was definitely part of the cultural baggage that early Filipinos lugged with them as they migrated northward as witness a few of our words that are evidently evolved from Sanskrit such as our terms for silk, teacher and the nobility and incidentally, the present and another more dish, our bringe. It took on a distinct Filipino layer with the use of beef (strictly taboo for Hindus) and the admixture of the colour and flavour of achiote and toasted peanuts, two more recent additions being obviously post Colombian. But what makes the dish so essentially Filipino though is its dependence on a distinctly Filipino condiment, bagoong alamang. And like most Filipino ulams, only a lot of rice can do it justice.

  4. One day at the asian shop in London, a Filipina was looking at the Thai curry paste and she said “ano to Kare-kare”
    Well probably the name curry was the root word where we get our very own “kare kare”.
    The peanut sauce is more on Indonesian influence and i agree MM that without the “bagoong” the dish has nothing but a cooked veggies and meat. Now the quantity of rice powder and ground peanut plus the flavor of the atsuwete gives just the authentique taste of this dish…just like “noong araw.”
    Some big Filipino restaurants do not give the pleasure of this flavor anymore…sometimes it is best to get the dish from a small “carinderia”.
    The picture though is appetizing!

  5. Like you, MM, Kare-Kare isn’t a favorite; more than that, I DON’T like it. It’s not the flavor of the dish, per se, but the fact that I don’t like the tripe and vegetables cooked in it. If no other dish was served, I’d just put some sauce (and maybe some sitaw) on my rice and eat that. When Seafood Kare-Kare was invented, I rejoiced — I could finally eat Kare without picking out virtually everything but the sauce! Still, I would not pick it out of a menu.

    Another poster in a previous entry analyzed the list of Top Pinoy dishes and noticed that most Filipinos love saucy-soupy food. This might be why I’m not a fan of local dishes; for some reason, I don’t have a taste for stews. I prefer dry, especially crispy, food. So while I’m not into adobo, I love adobo flakes.

    A few posters also mentioned how these “wet” dishes — Kare-Kare, pochero, cocido, sinigang, nilaga, caldereta, etc. — are their usual special Sunday lunch. I suddenly remembered how, when I was young, these were our standard Sunday fare as well. But because my siblings and I did *not* like them, we took to referring to them, disparagingly, as “Sunday food.” Funny to learn now that not only did other families routinely serve these dishes on Sundays, but that other families looked forward to the “Sunday food” we shunned! ;-)

  6. Thank you MM for this recipe. Kare Kare is one of my favorites and I am grateful that you took the time to post this. Your pictures are so clear and vibrant that it makes me want to make it this week!…. :)

  7. Yum! You’ve got me craving for kare-kare MM! I make vegetable kare-kare using most of the same ingredients except I replace any animal meat and “twalya” with firm tofu. Instead of bagoong I use fermented black beans (tausi) or I just buy vegetarian bagoong. :)

  8. I agree with Katrina. I don’t like the tripe. And when you order out, what’s up with all that bone and fat, where’s the meat? I hate rummaging through the dish looking for a good piece. Because of this, I also appreciate the new twist, seafood and even chicken kare-kare. It’s still one of my favorite dishes just because I love the sauce. As a child, I never dared touch this dish but when I found out it was made of peanut butter, I dug into it. I loved peanut butter as a kid. :)

  9. Hi Market Man! What delicious looking pictures! I admire you for making kare kare (which always seemed like an insurmountable task to me) and for making something which is not one of your favorites (something that is oh so hard for me to do…culinary immaturity on my part I guess…).

    Although kare kare in not one of my favorite dishes either, I like it for the tripe :) Yup, the least favorite ingredient for most is my most favorite…in fact, I won’t eat those kare kare dishes cooked without it! So I don’t know if it’s the kare kare I specifically like because I will basically eat most things that have tripe in it :)

  10. Gigi, sorry, I know this is bad for dieters, myself supposedly included though I have just literally sampled and eaten at least 21 different dishes in 4 meals in Bicol!!! Yikes. Tetchie, peanut butter is a lazy substitute for grinding your own but I would imagine anyone using peanut butter here in the Philippines is more likely using local PB unless you have access to the imported but even then I don’t think that makes a huge difference. Good all natural peanut butter without added sugar is a totally different animal from sugared Ludy’s, I agree. Apicio, I have an avid reader who has raised some of the recent research that suggests we came “down” from the North instead of up from the South…I haven’t read it myself but wouldn’t that be an interesting twist… At any rate, the influence is there and I also wonder how old of a dish this is… lee, you have invented the second entry to the Marketmanila dictionary with achuetint…have you thought of a career as an ad copywriter? relly, it’s quite accepted that the kare comes from curry…there was some explanation of how the British took a dish they liked and brought it back to the U.K. and gave it the English term Curry… Katrina, part of my problem with this dish is it is prone to being done POORLY though when it it done right (good ingredients, long preparation, just slightly cooked veggies, a clarity of flavor in the sauce, good bagoong) it tastes pretty good… Mackenzie, what in the world is vegetarian bagoong? I have NEVER even heard of this before! Joey, wait till you see one of the tripe dishes I ate in Florence, it was to DIE FOR.

  11. Mackenzie, tofu? I’ve made kare kare vegetarian style before but never with tofu. Hm, I think I’ll give that a whirl.

  12. I like Kare-Kare. I use oxtail,ox cheeks and ox tripe to cook it! I guess the secret to a not too sweet kare kare is in the ground peanuts? I never used store bought peanut butter to cook it.
    Mr.Marketman, I tried sending you the Caldereta recipe but I always get an error when I send it.I wonder if you got it? Anyway, you know how to contact me,if you didnt get it just send me a mail. I’ll be happy to share it.

  13. My mom uses slices of pata ng baboy instead of beef and oxtail and this adds a different texture to the dish. Sarap na rin even without the bagoong.

  14. my twin sister is a semi-vegan. she makes her own vegie bagoong using japanese nori in place of the shrimps. I can say its fairly good and tastes like the traditional one.

    I’ll ask her for her recipe. or have her post it here.

  15. MM,

    try using imported peanut butter smooth texture without sugar. that does well in our home version.

    you can get this at shopwise.

  16. No one in our family cooks kare-kare but I love this dish to bits. Must be the peanuts (I love PB) and bagoong. I usually have it our office cafeteria but I don’t order it in restaurants except in Cafe Juanita (yum!)

  17. Not a fan of oxtail and tripe though. I just smother my rice with sauce and finish off the veggies with bagoong. Even better if it were made with seafood or meaty beef.

  18. MM, your kare kare pix look good! But it’s the first time I’ve heard celery used in the broth of oxtail, celery not being a “native” veggie. Will try it, though. And Joey, a man after my own heart, er stomach! I love tripe too. In kare kare, callos, goto, in all its incarnations! Yummm!

  19. And oh! We cook kare-kare with beef brisket too! It’s a wonderful treat for those who are not too fond of tripe…

  20. Mae, you have to try it where you are if you can get bagoong which is imperative with this meal… tulip, not sure why the caldereta recipe wouldn’t come through… maybe spam filters or other too techy reasons for me. Will email you separately, thanks. erleen, thanks…I would never have known about vegetarian bagoong! Gigi, any other good stuff at Longrain? I haven’t eaten there I think. And beef brisket sounds good too. Cherish, will have to go upscale on imported PB next time…especially if I already broke the bank with the imported oxtails! Chrissy et al, what is with this seafood kare-kare variation? I have NEVER heard of this… duhh? CecileJ, yes, celery is my addition as it makes a better tasting broth in my view…though it is not a strictly filipino addition. The peanuts, in theory are not native either… Thanks, everyone for all those comments! I am back and recovering from my trip and will post again soon.

  21. When i cook kare-kare i also make sure i prepare “pork binagoongan”. Any guest who doesn’t like kare-kare that much can have a proper meal w/ binagoongan.

    Better than just serving bagoong i think.

  22. whew! i’m glad i’m not the only one who doesn’t like kare kare. my sister loves it! this, she said, would be her last meal if she were on death row. :-) not me. it’s not even on my top ten list. i think it’s because the dish is so bland no matter what peanut butter you use – imported or local. your picture makes the dish a lot more apetizing, though. do you know of a restaurant that serves great kare kare?

  23. marinel, the dish is indeed bland but that’s why the bagoong is so essential to the enjoyment of this dish. it’s the contrast of the very pungent shrimp paste (i occasionally ratchet up the ante by adding chillies) vs the bland nutty creaminess of the dish plus the white rice that makes for a wonderful explosion of flavours and textures in the mouth.

    To prove the point further, gado gado, a similar indonesian dish but with veggies, is pretty boring to me. a good bagoong, along w sinigang, suka, adobo, patis etc is one of the cornerstones of pinoy cuisine, in my opinion.

    eating kare kare without bagoong is like having sex without a partner: it’s possible, even necessary at times, but with a partner the whole experience is turbocharged.

  24. i’m really drooling over your photos, will attemp to cook from scratch, i just hope i’ll find all the ingredients here…….

  25. MM,

    i like the looks of your kare-kare, although i prefer my peanut butter with guava jelly on a piece of toast…

    kare-kare was never a staple while i was growing up in Cebu. i miss my mom’s legendary tinuwa (tinolang lapu-lapu) with sili espada and fresh tamarind… enough to make your brow perspire and finish up more than 2 servings of rice!

  26. kare kare sa UP food service was what saved university food bearable. That and espasol sa vinzonz hall and squash bread sa a.s.

  27. Thanks MR MM, such a wonderful creative recipes…authentic filipino recipes with your own home cooking style…I hope to see you in person once i get to manila….

    bleu,las vegas



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