My all-time favorite Filipino food would have to be Kare-Kare. I grew up eating this dish on special occasions and in my father’s side family gatherings. For those who do not know, it is basically a peanut stew of oxtail, tripe, beef, green beans, eggplants, pechay and banana heart. It is slow cooked to perfection and it is eaten with the Philippine shrimp paste, Bagoong. Like all my uncles, aunts and cousins, I believe that we are very particular and critical in how our Kare- Kare should taste, smell and look like. It should always be like how my Lola (Grandmother) makes it. My grandmother makes the best Kare-Kare in the entire Universe. It must be all the love that she puts in that makes it taste oh so wonderful and oh so special. Luckily, my mom learned how to make it the way that we all like it: Lola’s style. So even if my grandmother is not around anymore, we can still enjoy eating it as if she never left us. Too bad for me though that I am thousands and thousands of miles away from home. My mom is not here to cook it on days that I want to celebrate or days that I feel bad. To be honest, I have never seen how my Lola or my mom made Kare-Kare. I guess it was because I wanted it to always be something extremely special and let it be a mystery in itself. Now that I am Finland I kind of regret that I never really made an effort to find out exactly how my Lola and my mom made the dish.
I wanted to eat Kare-Kare during the entire week (Like all the other favorite dishes I want to eat and devour every single day) and I knew it would be a great risk on my part to even attempt to make it. I believe in my cooking skills but I don’t know if I am capable enough to pull this off. I know from the start that I can never do justice on my grandmother’s way of making Kare- Kare. But, I do hope that this would be enough to make Lola say “I’m glad you tried.”.
So, here goes nothing.
Pork Kare- Kare (Peanut Stew with Pork)
*Because I am in Finland where key ingredients to Asian cooking is scarce, I had to make do with anything that I had. Some may find it strange but when you’re abroad and you are craving for something from home. This is the only way to do it. ^^
Pork, cut into large cubes (You can substitute this with oxtail. tripe and beef if it is available nearby)
Potato, large dice
Cauliflower, a few pieces
Onion, cut into strips
Garlic, 2 cloves roughly chopped
Peanut Butter, 2 Tbsp
Fish sauce, 1 Tbsp
Shrimp paste or Bagoong, 1 Tbsp
Bay Leaves, 2
Ginger powder, 1/2 tsp (You can use fresh ginger as well)
Ground black Pepper, 1/2 tsp
Water or Pork Stock
1. In a pot halfway filled with water, place the pork, bay leaves, black pepper, and ginger powder. Let the pork boil until it is tender or roughly around 1 hour.
2. When the pork is tender, set aside. Don’t throw the stock or the boiling liquid because it will be used later on. Get another pot and heat with oil. Saute the garlic and the onions.
3. Add the potatoes and the carrots. Saute until they get a little brown.
4. Add the peanut butter and mix it with all the sauteing vegetables.
5. Season with fish sauce. (You might be wondering why my fish sauce has chilis in it. It’s the only one I have. Haha)
6. Add the shrimp paste next and stir everything well.Simmer for a minute or two.
7. Add the boiled pork to the pot (Do not include the stock yet. Just the pork). And make sure it gets coated with the peanut sauce.
8. Add the stock until the pot is half full. Stir and let it simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. If you think that the sauce is too thick, you can add more stock. The longer it simmers, the sauce tends to get thicker.
8. Add the green beans, cauliflower and the cabbage. Then cover again and let it simmer 5 minutes more.
9. Once the cabbage and beans are done, you can now transfer your home-made Kare- Kare into a single serving dish, with bagoong, of course.
I do know that my Kare-Kare may have skipped on a lot of steps and ingredients like annatto oil/ water. I know that this would never ever taste the way my grandmother and mom would make it. But, I am just glad that I tried and I did.
In my heart, this would always and forever be my favorite dish.
To my Grandmother and Mom, I hope that you are both proud of me :)