I could easily say that Kare Kare is another one of my favorite Filipino dishes. Considering the nature of Filipino cuisine, it’s not unusual to favor every single thing Filipino. Calderata, Sinigang, Adobo Peppered Steak, Vegetables Stir Fry. In all these dishes I raved about how much I loved them and that they are my favorite thing. And this Paleo Kare Kare, is just true love.
Kare Kare is a stew of ox tail with an array of colorful vegetables and braised in a creamy nut butter sauce. I know you’re salivating and I certainly won’t blame you when you lose control over an attractive and delectable piece of tail (um ox tail).
The ox tails are oven roasted and are then boiled for hours to release its beefy flavor into a delicious broth. Since the tail cuts have bone, the broth it makes imparts all the health benefits of a bone broth while providing a rich beef flavor. Bone broth equals healing and beauty, and you can read more about it from Weston A Price Foundation. I would suggest chasing tail from grassfed cows, which can also be ordered through US Wellness Meats.
Most Filipino dishes have a variety of vegetables which add color and nutritional value. Kare Kare hosts Japanese eggplant, Chinese green beans, and bok choy along with aromatic vegetables of onion and garlic. Bok choy and long Japanese egglplant are quite common in grocery stores now, but Chinese green beans would be tricky. Asian grocery stores should carry these long vine-like green beans, otherwise any other green bean can substitute.
Roasting the vegetables and adding later in the stew makes a considerable difference in flavor and texture as opposed to boiling them in the broth. One thing I can’t stand is soggy vegetables in stew, so pre-roasting completely avoids that problem. My theory is that the oven heat “pops” out the flavor from the pockets where its still concentrated with the vegetable and not lost into the broth. Maybe, maybe not. But it’s amazing. And pretty, huh?
So oxtails, Asian vegetables…think I’m done with exotic ingredients? Hah. The last item is annatto oil. Filipinos use annatto oil primarily for coloring stews into an attractive orange hue while adding a subtle bitter-nutty flavor. It’s not easy to find, but takes little effort to make it from scratch only needing annatto seeds and some oil. I used a blend of olive and coconut oil for a faint sweetness and because we Paleo enthusiasts are obsessed with coconut things.
Seriously though, the sauce is the best part. Buttery, a little tangy, and salty. Ooh. Traditionally peanut butter is used, so the common Paleo replacement would be almond butter. However, roasted hazelnut butter is also amazing and actually my favorite choice. Nut butter, fish sauce, and citrusy lime juice come together to create the most delicious and salivating sauce you could imagine. I’m loosing control just thinking about it, so I’ll stop yapping and share the recipe already
- 3 lbs of Oxtails
- 1 Tablespoon of Sea Salt
- 1 Tablespoon of Black Pepper
- 1 Large Yellow Onion, thickly sliced
- 2 Japanese Eggplants
- 10 ounces of Chinese Long Green Beans
- 4 Baby Bok Choys
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 1 Tablespoon of Black Peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon of Annatto Oil (recipe follows) or Cooking Fat (ghee, coconut oil)
- 6 Garlic cloves, minced
- ⅔ cup of Nut Butter (Almond or Hazelnut)
- 1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce
- 1-2 Tablespoons of Chili Paste
- 1 Tablespoon of Lime Juice
- 1 Tablespoon of Coconut Palm Sugar (optional)
- ½ cup of Light Olive Oil
- ½ cup of Coconut Oil
- ¼ cup of Annatto seeds
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over the oxtails and place in a roasting pan. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes. Rotate or flip the oxtails and roast for another 15 minutes to cook all sides evenly. Remove the tails from the roasting pan, leaving behind the rendered fat.
- While the tails are roasting, slice the eggplants into 1 inch cylinders and half them to make half moon pieces. Cut the green beans into pieces about 2 inches long. Cut the bok choy leaves from the stems and chop the stems into 2 inch long pieces.
- Add the vegetables to the roasting pan and mix around to let the rendered tail fat coat the vegetables. Roast the vegetables at 400F for about 12 minutes. Remove from the roasting pan and cover.
- Transfer the roasted oxtails to a large pot and cover with enough water so the water level is about 1 inch higher from the surface of the meat. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns.
- Bring the pot to a boil on high heat, cover then turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 2 hours until the tails are super tender.
- Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon onto a plate and filter the broth into a large bowl. Measure about 4 cups of broth for later. Save the rest of the delicious broth for another time.
- Heat the large pot to medium high and add the annatto oil/cooking fat. Add the garlic and onion and stir fry for about 1 minute. Add the 4 cups of broth reserved from the previous step.
- Lower the heat to medium, and add the almond butter, fish sauce, chili paste, lime juice, and coconut sugar. Mix until the sauce is creamy and smooth.
- Return the oxtails to the pot and increase the heat to medium high. Boil for another 10 minutes.
- Add the bok choy leaves and boil for another 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and fold in the roasted vegetables.
- Heat the olive and coconut oil to medium and add the seeds.
- Cook for about 5 minutes and remove from heat.
- Let steep for a few hours, then strain the seeds from the oil.
- You may use tahini in place of almond butter for a nut free version.
- The color may be less ‘orange’ if you don’t use annatto oil, but the taste will not be much different.
- If you cannot find oxtails, you may use other in bone cuts such as shank. However, the simmering step in part 6 of the recipe may take longer than a few hours.
- You can also use a slow cooker in place of the simmering step 6, however I do not suggest slow cooking for more than 5 hours because the tail meat will fall apart.