The beautiful bright uncluttered photographs in the KULINARYA cookbook are so inspiring I want to prepare our everyday Filipino dishes looking as clean and appealing. Many delicious Filipino dishes specially the stews are usually not photogenic with their dark sauce. One such dish is Kare-Kare, a meat stew with peanut based sauce, served with an assortment of vegetables and eaten with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste). In restaurants this very flavorful and colorful dish is served in a native terracotta pot but the presentation is somewhat ugly with the meat and vegetables all smothered in sauce. There is nothing wrong with that but I would like to see an easier on the eyes Kare-Kare dished up in a more appetizing way where you can see the contrast of greens, purples, and whites against the orange sauce. I'm glad to learn that a few notable restaurants in the Philippines are now plating better looking and appetizing Filipino dishes.
Preparation of Kare-Kare is a tedious and labor intensive process but I try to make it at least once a year because this is one of our favorite Filipino stews. I use no other meat but oxtail and add loads of greens. To reduce the amount of time and preparation I use extra crunchy peanut butter and glutinous rice powder. Fresh banana blossom is best if you can find it in your Asian grocery, or canned if fresh is not available, just rinse with water to remove some of its acidity before heating.
Oxtail Kare-Kare (adapted from KULINARYA)
1½ kilograms oxtail
water to cover meat
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ cup glutinous rice
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
3 small eggplants
1 bundle yard-long beans (sitaw)
1 small banana heart (blossom)
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup annatto oil*
¼ cup bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
*Annatto oil: Heat 1 cup oil and ½ cup whole annatto seeds in a skillet. Stir frequently and heat until the oil turns bright orange. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain oil and discard seeds. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
The day before:
- Wash oxtail very well. Place in a pot with enough water to cover. Boil for 10 minutes and discard the water. Pour in enough water to cover.
- Peel and quarter the onions. Add to the pot with the salt and whole black peppercorns.
- Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 90 minutes or until fork tender. Cool in the cooking liquid, cover, and refrigerate to bring the fat to the surface.
- Bring out the oxtail from the refrigerator. Skim the fat and discard. Remove the oxtail and reserve broth.
- Toast the glutinous rice in a skillet until golden brown. Let cool then pulse in a food processor. Set aside. Pulse the peanuts until creamy. Set aside.
- Slice the eggplants lengthwise leaving the stem intact. Cut the yard-long beans into 2-inch pieces. Bundle about 8 pieces with a sprig of chive. Or form uncut beans into a wreath.
- Prepare a bowl of water with 1 tablespoon of salt. Peel the outer layer of the banana blossom until you find its tender part. Cut the blossom lengthwise into 4 pieces. Immediately soak the pieces in water to avoid discoloration.
- Crush, peel, and finely chop the garlic.
- Heat the annatto oil in another pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic and shrimp paste. Add the meat and saute for a few minutes then add 4 cups of the broth. Lower flame and simmer until the broth has reduced by half.
- Add the toasted ground rice, stirring continuously until thick and creamy. Add the peanut paste. Keep stirring. Turn off heat and keep covered.
- In a separate pot boil the 4 cups water with the teaspoon of salt. Add the yard-long beans and boil until cooked but still firm and green. Remove from water. Add the eggplants and boil until cooked. Remove from water. Add the banana blossom and boil until tender. Remove from water.
- Reheat the meat and sauce. Transfer meat and sauce into a serving platter with the meat in the center. Arrange the vegetables around the meat. Serve with sauteed shrimp paste.