There’s a reason why kare-kare is usually reserved for special occasions. It’s a meal that requires time, effort, and all the contents of your fridge. But here’s how I made the cooking process easier somehow: deal with the meat first.
If you’re going for oxtail, pork knuckles, or huge chunks of beef, the best thing you can do is to either a) boil the meat the night before (what we did, or rather, what The Favorite Dining Companion did) or b) get a pressure cooker. My preferred version of kare-kare is shrimp/seafood kare-kare, which is actually the easiest version to cook. But since I rarely cook pork nowadays and the favorite dining companion misses pork, then pork it is (marriage, y’all).
I think you’ve all heard by now how kare-kare is kind of like the mild version of curry (hence, kare-kare). This is probably why I’m not a fan of food court kare-kare that needs copious amounts of bagoong with each bite. I like my kare-kare to be a bit on the flavorful side, kind of like a milder version of curry. A milder, peanut-y version that is.
There are a few changes I made to the recipe. First, I ditched the annato/atchuete. I used turmeric to add color and then balanced it out with soy sauce. No special reason for the switch other than the fact that I didn’t want to go out of the house just to buy atchuete.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the following:
-about 4 cups stock (or water)
-a teaspoon of turmeric powder
-2 tablespoons rice flour
-1/2 cup peanut butter
-dash of soy sauce
-a teaspoon of cooked shrimp paste
-a bit of sugar
-one calamansi (or a teaspoon of vinegar)
Mix to combine. Adjust to taste.
Then saute your garlic, onions, and add the pre-cooked meat. Toss in the vegetables. I used a combination of string beans and eggplants. Didn’t have any banana heart on hand. Then add the sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes. Adjust to taste/desired thickness. If you think that the sauce is too thin, just whisk in a few more tablespoons of rice flour. I personally like my kare-kare on the thin side. If it’s too thick, it kind of reminds me of mud. Heh. And that’s it!
Now for the bagoong:
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup crushed chicharon (or ground pork)
1 cup alamang
1 cup sweetener (I used a combination of honey & white sugar)
Saute the garlic, add the chicharon, and the alamang. Saute for a few seconds then add your choice of sweetener. I also added in a few drops of vinegar to balance the flavors. Let it cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Make sure to use a non-stick pan or grease your pan so that the sugar doesn’t caramelize too much. And mix it every few minutes.
We like our bagoong to be on the sweet side. It shouldn’t even be called just bagoong anymore, but bagoong jam. It’s THAT sweet. A note of caution though: it’s highly addicting stuff.
And that’s it! It’s so easy to cook without a very strict recipe. Not having to constantly scan a recipe is kind of liberating and gives me (a home cook) a bit of a confidence boost. Once you get a hang of cooking, you’ll soon realize that complicated meals like Kare-Kare don’t really need a recipe after all.