A rich stew of ox tail, face, leg, tripe or all of them together, and a variety of vegetables in a sauce flavored and thickened with roasted ground peanuts (peanut butter is just as good!) and toasted rice flour.
Another way to prepare kare-kare is to cook the vegetables separately in the stock in which the meat has cooked. The cooked vegetables are arranged in the serving bowl with the meat and the peanut sauce is poured in. This is my preferred method because I have better control over the texture of the vegetables to prevent overcooking them.
Traditionally, as in during my grandparents’ time, kare-kare was cooked with freshly ground roasted peanuts and rice. Well, there’s nothing like cooking it that way, but I find the procedure too much for today’s busy lifestyle. The easiest option is, of course, to get one of those ready mixes that are abundant in supermarkets. I’ve tried a couple brands. The problem was I didn’t have much control over the taste of the cooked kare-kare. The mix determined the final thickness, flavor and color of the dish. If you’re as particular as I am, well, you look for another option.
So, one time I bought “peanut butter” from the wet market. This “peanut butter” is coarser than the bottled variety and unsweetened. It is not made for sandwiches but is sold particularly for cooking kare-kare. Well, the grains were pretty obvious in the sauce and I didn’t like that either.
It was so frustrating that I actually stopped cooking kare-kare for more than a year. Until one day when my mother-in-law asked if we wanted a huge jar of peanut butter that she didn’t know what to do with. My husband, who’s a real peanut butter fan, gladly accepted. The jar was so huge (2 k.) that after a few weeks, it was just sitting, forgotten, way inside the refrigerator. Now this was sandwich peanut butter. Sweet and smooth. I debated for a while then decided to use it for kare-kare. Guess what? I finally found the perfect peanut butter for my kare-kare. The slightly sweet flavor of the sauce was reaallllyyy great especially because I season my kare-kare sufficiently. Kare-kare is usually under-seasoned because it is traditionally served with bagoong (shrimp paste) and the necessary saltiness comes from the bagoong. But I am allergic to it along with other crustaceans — shrimps, lobsters, crabs, prawns… So, I don’t touch the stuff. That’s why I always season my kare-kare well. And that’s why sweetened peanut butter is so perfect.
As to the ground roasted rice, well, I don’t particularly feel like grinding rice with a mortar and pestle. I have a supply of rice flour in the pantry. I toasted half a quarter of a cup in the skillet, mixed it with stock and it did the trick — color, thickness, flavor. I’ve been using this little trick for a long time now. »