Rex will be showing us how to make this Filipino fiesta stew, with roots across South East Asia. Traditionally made with big chunks of slow cooked meat such as oxtail or tripe, this thick anatto-coloured peanut stew is flavoured with the famous Filipino condiment ‘Bagoong’ (Bag-Oh-Ong’) which brings a funky umami kick to the dish.
Oxtail - Filipino cuisine is known for making the so-called cheaper cuts of meat into absolute showstoppers, and Kare Kare is just the same. By searing and braising the oxtail for hours, the gelatin and connective tissue render down until the sauce takes on all that flavour, and the meat is tender and comes away from the bones with ease. Cuts like oxtail can be tough and sinewy if not cooked correctly, but Rex shows you how to get the most out of this intensely flavourful, underutilised cut of meat.
Vegetables - with the strong flavours of the oxtail, peanut sauce and Bagoong, Kare Kare also includes a variety of vegetables to cut through all that richness. In this recipe, Rex uses smokey aubergines, and light and crunchy beans and Pak choi. The vegetables you choose to include are totally up to you, but small splashes of green throughout the dish really add to the overall appearance.
Sauce and braising liquid - Kare kare has a stew-like consistency, with enough sauce to coat a portion of steamed jasmine rice. The basis of this sauce is the braising liquid from the oxtail - which has taken on plenty of flavour from the aromatics and the meat, and colour from the anatto infused oil. Peanut butter is then stirred through the liquor, giving it a thicker texture and a rich nutty flavour.
Bagoong - this Filipino flavour bomb is the secret weapon behind any Kare kare. Made from fermented krill or shrimps, this condiment originates from a province called Dagupan, and is made by mixing the crustaceans with salt and allowing the mixture to slowly ferment over as long as 6 months. With an ineffable flavour that has to be tried to be believed, Bagoong has a deep umami flavour, and paired with the peanut sauce, has the ability to knock your socks off.
Protein - Rex teaches us how to create a dish with whole pieces of oxtail, but you can just as easily cook the meat and strip pull it off the bone - just make sure to leave it in chunks so it doesn’t become to homogenous with the sauce. Rex even suggests forming the pulled oxtail into patties and breadcrumbing them to create an added texture. However, oxtail isn’t the only meat you can use. On the bone cuts such as beef short rib or beef shank would work fantastically, or even other joints like bone in pork loin would work well here as well.
Vegetables - while this is a traditionally meaty dish, it can be easily altered to cater for vegetarians. Hearty vegetables like aubergine, celeriac or cauliflower would all work well as they retain their structure through the cooking process. By roasting the vegetables until they gain a little colour before incoporating them into the stew, you can intensify their natural flavours. Once these are mixed in, alongside the steamed pak choi, cabbage or beans, you will have a nice variation of texture and colour.
Seasonings - by swapping out the bagoong for a dark soy sauce, or even a spoonful of miso, you will be able to replicate that fermented kick and umami flavour while keeping the dish vegetarian.