THE VERY FIRST DISH that came to mind when I was contemplating to become a vegetarian for the sake of love was kare-kare. It would be very difficult to give up. But love prevailed and I never had kare-kare since then. This was two decades ago. As fate would have it, the love was eventually lost and I had since gone back to eating meat (poultry, yes. four-legged animals, no.)
Kare-kare is a very popular Filipino cuisine from a province called Pampanga where my parents were born. It is usually prepared with oxtail or cow’s intestines. I love it next to adobo but had not attempted to cook it because I thought it was complicated. That is, until I found a ready-mix powder from the Asian store. It says “Just add peanut butter.” I gave it a try and it was okay. It didn’t blow me away like I remembered from long ago. So I texted my mother and asked her to dig up a kare-kare recipe back home.
After a few days, she sent me this.
It turns out that my mother got the recipe from my sister-in-law who got the recipe from her friend who owns a popular restaurant in Bataan, our home province. This is the ultimate kare-kare recipe that I am familiar with. The sort that brings back happy memories of Filipino fiestas.
Because I don’t eat four-legged animals anymore, I used chicken meat and substituted ingredients that were not available. I used paprika instead of achuete for coloring, and used vegetables that I have in the pantry. This dish is best served with sautéed shrimp paste or bagoong, which can be bought from an Asian store that sells Philippine products. Bagoong is the umami to kare-kare. Confession: I was secretly delighted when the boyfriend did not object to the bagoong. =)
Chicken kare-kare (Chicken stew in peanut sauce)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 1 kilo chicken pieces, skin and fat removed
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp paprika
- bunch of string beans
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 eggplant, cut into 4
- chinese cabbage or bok choy
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tbsp rice flour
- bagoong (sauted shrimp paste, a must!)
- fish sauce (optional)
- Saute garlic and onion in a deep saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the chicken pieces and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the broth, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add paprika and mix until blended.
- Add string beans.
- Add coconut cream.
- When it starts to boil, add the eggplant and bok choy.
- Add the peanut butter and rice flour and mix. This will thicken the sauce.
- Turn off heat once vegetables are cooked.
- Serve with bagoong on the side, or season with fish sauce if not using bagoong.