Kare-Kare is a peanut based beef stew with a distinct orange hue. This color comes from annatto seeds which not only provides color but flavor as well. This is a dish that I rarely make because of the length of cooking time and preparation. The traditional way of cooking this, which is how my grandmother used to make it requires you to roast, grind and make a paste out of peanuts. You also also have to brown or toast uncooked rice, grind it into powder which would serve as a thickening agent. Nowadays, most would forgo this step and simply use peanut butter and breadcrumbs or rice flour. There are also kare-kare seasoning mix available in the market for those who do not have the time and luxury to prepare it the traditional way.
This is my version of kare-kare. To make you will need 2 lbs beef shanks plus 1 lb of beef chuck or blade. Place your meat in a pot and add enough water just to cover the meat. Add 1 medium onion quartered and some ground pepper. Let this boil then reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Do not forget to remove scum from broth while meat is cooking. Set aside when done.
While meat is cooking, make your annatto oil. Place 2-4 tbsp. oil in a small pan and add 1-2 tbsp of annatto seed. Turn on heat and cook over low flame until oil changes into a bright orange color. Strain your oil and discard the seeds and set annatto oil aside.
Prepare your vegetables. Cut 2 Asian eggplants at a bias and soak in water to avoid discoloration. Wash thoroughly 4 – 5 bunches of bok choy and separate the leaves. Take a bundle of yard beans, wash and cut into 2 inch lengths. Set this aside until ready to use.
Heat a pot and add your annatto oil. Saute 2 cloves of garlic minced and 1 medium sized finely chopped onion. Cook until fragrant. Carefully pour in your beef broth (from the beef shanks earlier) and let it come to a boil. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter and stir until dissolved (you may add more or less to suit your taste). Place your meat and season to taste with fish sauce. Let simmer for 5-8 minutes. I thickened my stew by adding 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water and slowly mixing this in the broth (You may also use toasted rice flour in place of cornstarch to serve as thickener). You then add your vegetables starting with the hardiest or longest to cook.
I prefer to cook my vegetables separately and not mixed in with the broth. To do this, add water in a small pot and let this come to a boil. Place your vegetable one at a time and cook until crisp tender. I started with the yard beans, then the eggplant and the bok choy last.
To serve, scoop some meat onto your bowl and pour in enough sauce. Add your vegetables on the side of the meat and serve with bagoong (shrimp paste). Best eaten with steamed white rice.