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Out of all Asian cuisines, I have to confess that I am most ignorant when it comes to Filipino cuisine. First of all, I have yet traveled to the Philippines to sample its local cuisine; secondly, it’s not easy to find Filipino food, as outlined by Marvin of Burnt Lumpia and this article in Los Angeles Times. Divina Pe of Sense & Serendipity is here today to share with us a Filipino kare kare or ox tail and peanut stew recipe. Divina is a professional cook, holistic nutritionist and aspiring cookbook author from the Philippines and you can expect many delicious recipes and mouthwatering food photography at Sense & Serendipity. Please welcome Sense & Serendipity to Rasa Malaysia and learn all about kare kare, a delicious Filipino stew.

I grew up with my late-father’s Chinese cooking and actually regretted not spending more time in the kitchen with him. He never encouraged me to cook but his love for food was contagious enough for me to do the same thing. When Rasa Malaysia invited me to do a Filipino dish on her blog, I am really honored and yet surprised at the same time. I do eat Filipino food but rarely cook them at home except for the classic adobo. I was filled with tension not knowing what to make. Of course, the restlessness shows when one of the authorities in Asian cuisine invited you for a guest recipe. And one of the recipes that came to my attention is Kare Kare.

There are a several stories about the origin of Kare Kare. First, it says the dish came from Pampanga, which is considered as the culinary center of the Philippines. Others believe that it is a noble dish served to Moro elite who once settled in Manila before the arrival of the Spaniards. Another origin states that this traditional dish is credited to the Indian curry introduced by Indians whole lived in the area of Cainta, Rizal and it is also somewhat similar to the Indonesian dish called Gado-Gado. And the name Kare Kare is derived from the Japanese word Kare which might have been contributed by the Japanese while doing business in the Philippines during the pre-colonial times…

I’ve learned how to make Kare Kare when the amusing and talented Chef Stephane Meyer asked me to cook Filipino food for staff meal. He was aware that I only have two months left in Vancouver before going back to the Philippines. So, I asked again if he really wants Filipino food hoping that he would ask for something else. And of course he is while giving me that odd look. After my morning shift, I went straight to the library to search for Filipino cookbooks and specifically look for Kare Kare. I know how to cook adobo but I still chose Kare Kare, not knowing that might get offended by the foul-smelling fermented shrimp paste. I even emailed my brother and sister to send me the recipe so I could compare the ingredients and the procedure. I also visited the Filipino store to buy some ethnic ingredients while giving the other market list to the chef requesting for beef short ribs, some vegetables and a green papaya. The chef and 2 other colleagues (not sure about the 2 owners) loved it. I served the Kare Kare with some green papaya salad and steamed rice. After that he requested for another dish.

Kare Kare is a dish that seem complicated to do. But if you compare this with other stews, it’s not too difficult at all. I always cook the meat one day ahead, store in the fridge and remove the hardened fat on the surface the following day. There are three components of this dish. First is the meat, which is usually ox tail but it can also be done with other cuts of beef such as beef shanks or short ribs, or a combination of both. Sometimes tripe is also added. Second is the sauce which is made of sliced onions, finely ground peanuts, toasted ground rice and the annatto seeds (mainly for color). The last component is the vegetables which include banana flower bud or heart, eggplant, string beans, okra or bok choy. This is a dish that you could either hate or love because of its naturally bland flavor and the type of peanuts or even peanut butter that you use would make a huge difference. And Kare Kare should be served with bagoong, a pungent and salty condiment of fermented shrimps. Without it, you might as well cook something else.

While beef is the most common ingredient, Kare Kare can also be made with seafood (prawns, squid, and mussels) or all vegetables.



Makes 6-8 servings
Recipe by: Divina Pe of Sense & Serendipity


Ox Tail

2 lbs ox tail
1 lb beef round or short ribs
Sea salt
2 large onions
2 medium carrots
1 stick celery
8 cups water

Sauce and Vegetables

2 ½ cups whole peanuts
1/3 cup Jasmine rice
2 onions
4 tbsp annatto oil (please see note)
2 Japanese eggplants
¼ bundle string beans
1 piece of banana bud/heart
6 calamansi

To Serve

2 garlic cloves
1 shallot
1/3 cup bagoong (fermented shrimp paste)


To cook the meat, heat a large Dutch oven or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Then season the meat on all sides with salt. Add the oil to the pan and brown the meat. While the meat is browning, peel and roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery. When the meat has browned on both sides, transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and brown. Once golden, add the seared beef back to the pan. Cover the ingredients with water or just enough to cover the meat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 3 to 5 hours or until the meat are fork tender.

At this point, I scoop out the meat and transfer them into a plate, then strain out the other ingredients. I cool down the stock and place them (stock and meat) in the fridge, covered, before proceeding with the recipe the following day.

To prepare the other ingredients, first remove the fat from the surface of the beef stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Next, toast the peanuts in a large pan, stirring occasionally until light golden brown. Allow the nuts to cool down and process them in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl. Next, grind the raw rice in a spice grinder and toast the in a pan until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a bowl with the ground nuts. Add enough of the hot stock to form a paste and set aside.

To prepare the vegetables, peel and chop the onion, slice the eggplants into 1-inch thick, on a bias, cut the string beans into 2-inch pieces and cut the banana bud half lengthwise, then into 1-inch pieces crosswise. Soak the cut banana heart in water with a little vinegar. Then, juice the calamansi.

To prepare the bagoong, peel and thinly slice the garlic and the shallots. Heat oil in pan over low heat and add the sliced garlic and shallots, and cook until soft. Add the bagoong and cook until the mixture is fragrant. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

To cook the Kare Kare, heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and sweat the onions, followed by the salt. Cook until the onions are soft. Add 5 cups of the simmering stock and peanut mixture, stirring with a whisk until combined. Then add the beef and let it simmer for 15 minutes until tender. Stir the mixture occasionally. Next, add the eggplant, string beans, banana heart and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add more water if the mixture is too thick. Add the calamansi juice, then season with salt to  taste. Allow to simmer for another 2 minutes and take it off the heat.

To serve the Kare Kare, ladle the dish into a bowl and serve with plain steamed rice and bagoong.

Cook’s Notes:

Atsuete Oil (Annato oil)

To prepare annato oil, simply combine ¼ cup of annato seeds and 1 cup grapeseed or rice bran oil. Heat up the mixture and turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour. Strain the oil through a glass container and discard the annato seeds. Another option is to combine 1 tablespoon of annato seeds in ½ cup of hot water, and let it sit an hour. Then press the seeds with a spoon to extract the color. Strain the mixture and discard the seeds.

If you happen to use oxtail with the skin on and you’re not searing it, blanch them first to remove the impurities. When the water has come to boil, drain the ox tail and wash in cold water. Wash the pot and fill with some freshly cold water and add the ox tail back. Bring to a boil and simmer with 1onion (roughly chopped) and few slices of ginger).

For maximum peanut flavor, make sure to toast or roast the peanuts very well. You can also use peanut butter but make sure to get a really good quality peanut butter. You can use a combination of good quality smooth peanut butter and freshly ground roasted peanuts.

Some recipes would call for vegetables to be cooked separately before adding to the dish. In some restaurants, the three components are served almost separately by ladling the sauce first before arranging the vegetables and the ox tail on top of the sauce.

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