Celebrate the simple but good life

Who says that only the rich could enjoy a good life? Join ordinary Pinoys in their quest to discover affordable ways to enjoy life.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Filipino Recipes: Authentic, Traditional Kare-Kare

A lot of people think that the secret to good kare-kare is a good alamang sauce. That means they have not really tasted good kare-kare. The secret to good kare-kare is a good stew, well a good kare-kare.

Unfortunately, most of the kare-kare one tastes in restaurants are the nouvelle cuisine or the quickie variety. Usually, these are boiled meat with separate peanut sauce. Very expensive yet utterly disappointing.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, kare-kare is  essentially a stew. It is not sate nor a meat dish with peanut sauce. The secret is to have all the flavors of the meat, the banana bud, the peanuts and all other ingredients to fuse together. And this could be achieved only by braising and stewing the dish.

The problem with traditional kare-kare is that it is too tedious and time-consuming to prepare. It can take as much as two days to prepare everything from scratch. However, the effort is well worth it. If you’ve tasted some really very good kare-kare at wealthy friends’ and relatives’ parties, chances are they are prepared in the traditional way.

This is a traditional family recipe that my mom used to do with some modifications. My mom is from the Southern Tagalog region in the Philippines. Surprisingly, some in-laws’ relatives make really good kare-kare. Everyone praises their kare-kare. Happily, the process and recipe are similar to this one; people found it to be almost as good as the best kare-kare they’ve tasted. Not everything in this recipe after all uses traditional steps as I use modern conveniences.

I decided to put this recipe in writing so I could have a record of it that I can share. Most recipes available seem to be deliberately vague or lacing in instructions.

WARNING. This kare-kare recipe  is a very time-consuming process. I have tried this recipe several times already. I have observed that cutting on certain things, especially the time, would yield not very satisfactory results. You’d still get an adequate kare-kare, but what is the point; you can get that in many good restaurants. So observe the minimum length of time provided in this recipe.

Ingredients

1 kg beef shin (According to some cookbooks, this is the best part to prepare beef stock from. It remains firm and doesn’t lose all of its flavor; at time, it produces a really tasty broth. Kalitiran may be substituted.)
1 kg beef balat (skin) or oxtail
1 piece/cut of beef shank
[OPTIONAL] 1/4 kg beef tripe [NOTE: Substitute this to the same portion of beef skin.]
1 head garlic, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground, black pepper
1 tablespoon pure patis or guinisang alamang
1 tablespoon vinegar [NOTE:The vinegar is not for flavoring but rather as some kind of preservative to keep the dish from spoiling easily. Do not add more.]
[OPTIONAL] 2 beef cubes
8 cups water
1 additional cup water
1 piece large puso ng saging (banana bud) [NOTE: The long and white variety is preferred for this recipe. However, the round and red variety is also good and has a stronger flavor. Unfortunately, it can look really awful once cooked.]

1/2 cup finely ground toasted rice (malagkit or glutinous rice) [NOTE: Properly toasted rice is a key ingredient that differentiates good kare-kare from common ones.]
1 cup ground, roasted peanuts [NOTE: Do not use peanut butter or any sweetened or spiced peanut preparation. You can buy ground, roasted peanuts some groceries.]
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 tablespoon achuete (annatto) seeds
[OPTIONAL] 1 pechay (bok-choy or Chinese cabbage) washed, leaves separated with the thick stalks slit lengthwise twice at the bottom
[OPTIONAL] 1 bundle sitaw (string beans)
[OPTIONAL] 4-6 eggplants, sliced into four lengthwise with the stalk still intact
Guinisang alamang (sautéed shrimp paste0 [NOTE: It is better to use the bottled commercial variety. Preparing the guinisang alamang is a complete recipe in itself.]

Ahead of time preparation

Preparing the toasted rice and peanuts can be a tedious and time-consuming activity. You might end up not finishing anything within the day. It is best to prepare these ahead of time.

Ground, toasted ground rice. It is important the rice is toasted properly. It provides the kare-kare with some kind of smoke flavor, leaving the impression that it was cooked using a palayok on a wooden fire.

1.            A little over 1/2 cup of whole grain malagkit or glutinous rice would make a 1/2 cup of ground rice.
2.            Heat a dry pan (I use a small kawali) over high heat. Splatter some water into the pan, when the water evaporates, it is ready for use.
3.            Reduce heat to medium. Put the rice into the pan. Continuously toss the pan until the rice has become beige or light brown in color. (You would be able to smell the toasted aroma of the rice.) Be careful not to burn any grain of rice. [NOTE: It is important to constantly toss the rice otherwise some grains would burn.] This could take from 10 to 15 minutes.
4.            Set the toasted rice aside to cool.
5.            Grind the rice using a corn or any dry grain mill. Store in cool, dry place until needed for use.
6.            If you don’t have a grinder, store the whole grain toasted rice.
7.            You can use a blender or a food processor to grind the rice. This can be done as the kare-kare is being cooked.  When you’re done tenderizing the meat and the stock is ready, get a couple of cups of the stock. Puree the toasted rice in a blender or food processor. You may puree the rice and peanuts at the same time. Add more stock if necessary. This step could be done after the banana bud has been cooked in the broth. If using plain water, add a beef bouillon cube.

Ground, roasted peanuts. Commercial ground roasted peanuts can sometimes be very dark brown in color. The annatto oil would not have any much effect. (I use the commercial product though.) Roasting  and grinding the peanuts can be a very grueling, tedious process.  About 1 and 1/4 cups of peeled peanut make more or less one 1 cup of ground roasted peanuts.

You can roast the peanuts in the oven at about 350 F for about 20-30 minutes. However, it is important to periodically check the peanuts for an even roasting. Toss the peanuts in the pan every few minutes. Taste the peanuts. The peanuts are ready when they are firm and crunch but still very light brown in color.

You can also pan roast the peanuts as done with the rice.
1.            Heat a dry pan (I use a small kawali) over high heat. Splatter some water into the pan, when the water evaporates, it is ready for use.
2.            Reduce heat to medium. Put the peanuts into the pan. Continuously toss the pan until the rice has become beige or light brown in color [NOTE: It is important to constantly toss the peanuts otherwise some nuts would burn.] This could take 20 to 30 minutes.
3.            Taste and test the peanuts.  The peanuts are ready when they are firm and crunch but still very light brown in color.
4.            Set the toasted rice aside to cool.

After roasting the peanuts, crush using a pestle and a mortar. Store in a dry, tightly sealed container in freezer or refrigerator until needed for use.

You can use a blender or a food processor to grind the rice. This can be done as the kare-kare is being cooked.  When you’re done tenderizing the meat and the stock is ready, get a couple of cups of the stock. Puree the toasted rice in a blender or food processor. You may puree the rice and peanuts at the same time. Add more stock if necessary. This step could be done after the banana bud has been cooked in the broth. If using plain water, add a beef bouillon cube.

Annatto oil. Heat the cooking oil in a pan over low heat. Add the achuete (annatto seeds). Keep stirring for about 5minutes or until the oil has become bright red in color. Set aside to cool. Strain the seeds from the oil. Let cool. Refrigerate until needed for use.

Cooking

1.            Put together the meat, the garlic, the onion, the salt, the pepper and 8 cups of water into a pot. With the pot tightly covered, bring to a boil over low heat. Simmer for about one hour.
2.            Remove the scum and fat gathering at the top. Shift the meat a bit to release any trapped scum or fat. Repeat process every few minutes until all of the scum and fat are removed.
3.            Add one cup of cold water and simmer on very low heat for about 3 hours.. [NOTE: At the end of this stage, the beef and stock is actually good enough to serve.]
4.            Set the beef aside in a separate container. Add some of the stock to keep the beef from drying or darkening in color.
5.            Remove as much of the remaining oil or scum as possible.
6.            Add the patis or alamang and vinegar to the stock.
7.            Add the banana bud to stock. Simmer in covered pot over low heat for about 30 minutes or until the banana bud is soft. [NOTE: This is one the critical and most important stage in the cooking process. Keep in mind that the banana bud is being used as an extender, flavoring and thickener. It is not added as a nutritional vegetable as done in nouvelle cuisine. The bud is being braised to absorb the beef flavor. At the same time, the bud is infusing its flavor to the broth.]
8.            Get some of the broth, enough to cover the ground toasted rice and peanuts. Puree the stock, rice and peanuts in a blender or food processor. [NOTE: Puree to as fine as possible. This will also help prevent lumps from forming.]
9.            Add the pureed rice and peanuts to the pot. Add the annatto oil and two beef cubes.  [NOTE: The flavor of the stock could vary immensely depending on many factors about the beef used. Age of the cattle is one.] Stir and mix thoroughly.
10.          Add salt and pepper to taste.
11.          Add back the beef and simmer slowly over very low heat for about one hour more.
12.          In the last 10 minutes, add the vegetables. 

Preparing the vegetables separately

You may want to prepare the vegetables separately and serve them on the side. The chief reason for this is that vegetables tend to become soggy and spoil more easily.

Pechay. I don’t really like pechay in kare-kare but people keep looking for it. To cook, bring a huge pot of water with one teaspoon of salt to a fast boil. If you can bear the heat, hold the pechay upright with the white stalks in the water for three minutes. (Try  to find a way to hold the pechay in this position with some kind of holder. ) Submerge the pechay in the water for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the pechay into a colander and wash in cold, running water to stop the cooking.

Sitaw (string beans). Bring about 2 liters of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Drop the string beans into the water.  Simmer from 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and test the strring beans.  They are ready when they are still crunchy but without the bitter taste of raw vegetable. Put the beans in a colander and rinse in cold, running water to stop the cooking. Add some ice if you can. Pat dry and try to remove as much of the water out. Just before serving, toss the beans in a dry pan over moderate flame to reheat and remove excess water.

Eggplant. You can either fry or broil the eggplant.  Fry until the interior part is soft. Broil until the skin darkens and comes off easily.

Although they are traditionally served in the stew, the vegetables may be better served on the side. They spoil and lose their texture easily.

No comments:

Post a Comment