I remember hearing the sound of the pressure cooker in the kitchen when I was growing up and that meant my Mom was cooking either Sinigang or Kare-Kare, both usually made with the cheapest cuts of meat, which also meant they took the longest to cook. The hiss-hiss sound of the pressure cooker will always be synonymous with these two beloved dishes, knowing Mom was cooking either pork neck bones for the Sinigang or the strangely shaped oxtail pieces for Kare-Kare. I don't have a pressure cooker but I do love the long cooking times of dishes likes these. Although now the cuts of meats used for both these dishes are no longer cheap because of the surge of popularity of both in recent years, these are still favorites in my house.
I have made variations of Kare-Kare, which is traditionally a peanut-based stew. I've made it with chuck roast for one of my tasting parties. Another time I made it using almond butter instead of peanut butter. Both resulted in successful attempts to update the dish. I know I make mine differently. I don't color my peanut butter broth with achiote (annatto seeds) because the orangey color is off-putting to me and doesn't really resemble the color of peanut butter. Nor do I make this from scratch, crushing peanuts to make the peanutty sauce. My Mom always used peanut butter. There's no shame in short-cuts. If you want to make your own nut butter and you have a food processor, use about 2 cups of whatever nuts you want to use in the dish and process the nuts with just a touch of oil for lubrication. Process until the nuts have completely been pulverized and have become smooth. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all the nuts incorporated but it's well worth it. If you shop at a health food store such as Whole Foods, they have an area of freshly ground nut butters you can buy by the pint, etc.
Another change I made to the traditional recipe I learned: I don't mix the veggies in to the broth to cook. The vegetables tend to cook at different times and also the vegetables tend to look a little too sad looking once they're done. I stir fry them while the broth is cooking so that each of the veggies keep their color and you can distinguish them from the rest of the dish. My Mom also puts in beef tripe, but I kept that out of this recipe. If you love tripe and you know how to prepare it, by all means add it to the dish. Some time soon I will post the entire traditional recipe from scratch, but I think you will like my version. Let me know what you think!
2 lbs Oxtail
1/2 cup onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium Japanese eggplants about 1/2 lb each, cut into 2-inch pieces, then each piece quartered
1 lb baby Bok Choy, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb Chinese long beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups peanut butter, almond butter, or other nut butter
1/4 cup fermented shrimp fry (ginisang alamang)
1/4 cup peanuts, almonds, or other nut
Put your oxtail in a large dutch oven or pot and add the pieces of oxtail. Add water to cover just about 1" over the oxtail. Bring to a boil then lower the heat so that it is a gentle boil. Cook covered for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Periodically, skim the surface to remove the scum.
Carefully remove the oxtail pieces to a plate and reserve about 4 cups of the broth.
In a large dutch oven or pot, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat and brown the oxtail pieces on all sides until golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pot. Do this in batches to prevent from braising the oxtail.
Add the onions and garlic and cook with the oxtail for about 5 minutes when the onions have become soft.
Add the nut butter to the pan and mix with the oxtail until it has covered the meat. Be careful not to burn the nut butter.
Return the broth back to the pot and carefully stir the broth until the nut butter and liquid have combined. Bring to a low boil and stir constantly. Keep an eye on the soup because the nut butter will burn if you don't stir it. Keep it on low heat as you work on the next steps.
While the soup is reheating, in a wok or large fry pan, add about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat and stir fry the long beans. Add about 3 tablespoons of water to the pan to steam the beans and cook for about 5 -7 minutes, stirring the beans around. Season with a salt and pepper. Once cooked, set aside on a separate plate. Repeat with the eggplant and the bok choy.
Using a mortor and pestle (a plastic baggie will work too), crush the nuts until it becomes course but not too pulverized. In the same frying pan, add just a little bit of oil and add the nuts and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes, no longer, just until the nuts are just golden brown in color then transfer to a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and toss them together.
To assemble, Spoon the peanut/almond/nut broth into a large serving bowl, add the bok choy, then the oxtail, followed by the long beans then the eggplant. Sprinkle with the crushed peanuts/almonds/nuts. Serve hot with steamed rice and side of Ginisang Alamang.