These are the meals that I have cooked for my family during the past five years—recreated in recipe form. We already ate it and for the most part, enjoyed it. I hope you will too.
Kare kare is the potluck flex. Super tender braised nuggets of oxtail enveloped in a rich peanut butter sauce is perfect with (hella) rice. It’s my favorite anything. It’s also probably the first time many non-Filipinos are introduced to shrimp paste, or bagoong.
This is the same recipe that I brought in a chilled dutch oven all the way from Seattle to reheat at my friend Carlo Lamaga’s house in Portland. Carlo was about to open Magna, a super fun Filipino restaurant in the “historic but also has tons of new restaurants” Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood. While I wanted to celebrate and stay true to the base flavors, I also added subtle tweaks—the kind that might make him flash me a knowing look after his first bite. Smoked paprika, black garlic, and a base of dashi. You know, flexxxxxx for my restaurant fam.
Watching Carlos’s 2-year-old son scoop seconds into his own bowl melted my heart. I love cooking from the hip, but rolling in with a packed dutch oven I’ve fawned over for multiple days before serving to my friends and family is the ultimate satisfaction.
There’s a lot of prep involved, but the slow cooker does most of the heavy lifting. Make sure to “mount” (or incorporate) the peanut butter with care as the stewing liquid can separate and break. Picking up the oxtail bones with your fingers and slurping the meat off is a pro move. Enjoy.
16-Hour Filipino Peanut Butter Stew aka Kare Kare
Active time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 18 hour
Serves: Two small families (6 adults and 4 kids) with #HellaRice
First slow cooker cycle
- 3 lbs oxtail, I prefer 80/20 ratio of big to small pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp rice bran oil
- 6 cups dashi (Any recipe from the Internet will do, hondashi/instant will work in a pinch.)
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped into quarters
- 1 clove dried black garlic (If regular, use three whole cloves.)
- 1 thumb-size knob of ginger, sliced lengthwise
Second slow cooker cycle
- 4 gabi (taro root), peeled and cut in halves
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter, we’re a Jif family
- 1 lb sitaw (long beans) cut into 2-inch pieces
- ¼ CUP annatto water, annatto seeds soaked in a cup of hot water and strained
- 2 tbsp toasted ground rice
- ¼ CUP whole roasted peanuts, lightly crushed in mortar and pestle
- A few shakes of sweet smoked paprika
- ½ CUP bagoong or Filipino shrimp paste (Asian grocers like Fou Lee, Oriental Mart, Uwajimaya and Viet Wah have plenty of options.)
- Season all sides of the oxtails aggressively with salt and pepper. Preheat rice bran oil in a pot (or in your Instant Pot) and sear meat until all pieces are golden brown. Set aside.
- Dab excess cooking oil in cooking vessel with a paper towel and deglaze your pot with with dashi, scraping up the flavorful brown bits at the bottom of the pot. If you’re using a slow cooker, this would be the moment to pour the contents of the pot into your slow cooker vessel.
- Add oxtails back in pot with onions, ginger, and black garlic clove. Cover and slow cook on medium-low for eight hours.
- Check tenderness. Add gabi and run another eight-hour slow cooker cycle. Meat should easily pull away from the bones. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.
- Once the meat is ready, add sitaw and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until tender.
- Add the peanut butter to a handheld mesh strainer and work it into the broth with the back of a spoon for full incorporation.
- Add toasted ground rice and water from the annatto seed mixture (it gives the stew a rich color). Stir. Gently simmer for five to seven minutes. If you bring it to a boil, the sauce may break.
- In a nonstick pan, heat shrimp paste over medium-low heat and warm until it splatters a bit. Serve on the side as a salty condiment to cut through the richness of the peanuty sauce.
- Scoop kare kare in a huge bowl, big bones in the middle and smaller ones near the edge. Add gabi and sitaw on the sides and ladle sauce over everything. Add ground peanuts and a few shakes of smoked paprika. Place a large empty bowl in the middle of the table for your family to discard naked bones to make room for more more more.
Want to save yourself 16 hours of cooking? The homey Melissa Miranda at Musang has her version of kare kare on the fall menu. It’s delicious. Archipelago owners Aaron and Amber Verzosa released a hyper-local kare kare cook-at-home kit—with freshly harvested Washington peanuts and their own Oregon shrimp bagoong—in their balikbayan box program last September. Hopefully they’ll bring it back in the colder months.