One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to seek out the small restaurants where the locals eat. It was in just such a spot where I first encountered a pot of this stew with its unusual yellow/orange broth and a fragrance of roasted peanuts.
Unless you frequent an area with a large Filipino population, you may never have tried Kare Kare or Kari Kare (depending on location). This traditional rich stew is often made from oxtail, pork shanks, beef stew meat or tripe, and simmered in a peanut sauce with vegetables like bok choy, eggplant, green beans and green onions.
While the stew is a traditional Filipino dish, its flavors are reminiscent of similar west African dishes and even certain Indian satays or curries. We make it with pork shanks and venison stew meat, slow simmered until fork tender, then moved to another pot and finished with a sauce base made from the stock left from cooking the meat and peanut butter. The stew is thickened with rice flour and served over white rice.
The traditional color of the stew comes from achuete water, made from soaking the annatto seeds from the achiote tree in water, then smashing the softened seeds and filtering out the pulp. You can find annatto seeds at many Latin groceries or order online.
Make the rice powder by toasting long-grain rice in a skillet until lightly browned, then powder it in a spice grinder or with a flat meat mallet.
2 pounds pork shanks split down the center
1 1/2 to 2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into roughly 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup achuete water (optional) (made from soaking Achiote seeds)
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut powder (find near the peanut butter at most large groceries)
2 tablespoons toasted rice powder
8 ounces fresh or frozen green beans
1 medium eggplant, cut into 8 pieces
2 to 3 small heads bok choy cabbage, split down the center
3 green onions, diced
Start by splitting your pork hocks (or have your butcher do it) down the center. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the pork hocks and venison chunks on all surfaces.
Add enough water to cover the meat by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for two hours or until the shanks start to fall apart and the venison shreds easily.
Remove the meat from the pot and reserve the stock. While the meat simmers, add a tablespoon of achiote seeds to a half-cup of warm water and soak for at least an hour. After soaking, use your fingers or the back of a spoon to smash the seeds, releasing their red color into the water. Strain the water through cheese cloth or a wire mesh strainer to remove the pulp. Reserve the water for use in the stew. After the pork hocks have cooled enough to handle, strip the meat from the bones.
In a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the onion has softened. Add the garlic to the pan and continue cooking another minute or two. Next, add the simmered and deboned meat to the pot, along with the green onions, green beans, eggplant and bok choy. Continue to sauté another five minutes or so until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the strained achuete water, salt and peanut butter to the pot.
Pour in 6 cups of the reserved stock left from simmering the pork and venison. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Add the powdered rice and stir well to thicken the stew. Serve the kare kare over a bowl of white rice.
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