The Happy Home Cook: Vegan Kare-Kare (Filipino Peanut Stew)

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 Vegan Kare-kare (Photo by Astig Vegan)

Vegan Kare-kare (Photo by Astig Vegan)

Kare-kare is a classic and beloved Filipino stew made of meat and vegetables in thick and creamy peanut sauce, traditionally with shrimp paste (bagoong) and rice on the side. Filipinos often reserve this dish for big parties like town fiestas, christenings, even weddings. It’s a dish that’s both celebratory and celebrated.

For richer flavor and more festive look, Filipinos would sometimes cook and serve Kare-kare in a clay pot. Nowadays, Filipinos put in peanut butter in the sauce, but my mom told me that the original and traditional way of making Kare-kare uses ground toasted rice and ground toasted peanuts. With these two toasted ingredients, they impart a nutty, complex flavor better than peanut butter. But then again others swear by the peanut butter, so I’ll let you decide which version you’d like to make yours.

Admittedly, making traditional Kare-kare could be time-consuming. In fact, the ox tail and beef could take an hour to tenderize. That’s probably why Filipinos would usually reserve this dish for special occasions. After many trials and errors, I think I’ve found a vegan version that’s the best of both worlds- simple yet complex. How? It’s simple because you don’t have to tenderize any meat, which cuts the cooking time in half. Yet, it’s complex because it uses two key ingredients in the traditional making of Kare-kare: ground toasted rice and ground toasted peanuts.

As you may have noticed, I’ve already written about my vegan Kare-kare recipe in the past.  But now and then, people ask me for a video version. Perhaps people prefer watching than reading the recipe.  And that’s completely fine with me. It’s actually easier for me to describe the recipe when I could show how it’s supposed to look like step by step.  So, I assembled my friends to shoot a recipe video. I hope you will find this video useful.

Ingredients

1 banana blossom bud, fresh (canned, which is ready to use, is an ok alternative)
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and minced
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
few pinches sea salt
6 cups water
2 eggplants, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth or more to taste
2-3 tablespoons achuete or annatto powder, fully dissolved in 2 cups water
1 cup peanuts, toasted and ground to a powder. (Peanut butter is an okay alternative).
½ cup white rice, toasted and ground to a powder, mixed in 1 cup water (make sure there are no lumps in the mixture)
1 small bunch long beans, cut to 2-inch slices, ends removed
2 pieces dried snow fungus, soaked in water for 1-3 minutes, cut into big chunks (textured soy protein is an ok alternative)
1 bundle bokchoy, washed, bottom stalk cut off (long bok choy is traditional but you may cut to chunks if preferred).
2 tablespoons black bean sauce mixed in 2 tablespoons seaweed flakes (as condiment)

Instructions

Peel outer layers of banana blossom until you reach the pale pink, tender bud. Discard outer layers and yellow pistils or use as decor for plating. Have a large bowl of salt water nearby. Oil your knife and cutting board to prevent sap from sticking. Cut off stem and slice bud in half lengthwise. Cut in chunks and immediately submerge the banana blossom in salt water. Soak for at least 10 minutes. Discard soaking water and rinse thoroughly.

In a large pot, saute garlic with oil until fragrant. Follow with onions. Add few pinches of sea salt and saute until onions have turned soft and translucent.

Add banana blossom, eggplant, water, vegetable broth, and achuete mixture. Mix and cover pot. Simmer until eggplant and banana blossom are tender.

Mix in ground peanuts and rice mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes. If sauce gets too thick, add more water one cup at a time until consistency is creamy.

Adjust seasoning by adding more vegetable broth or ground peanuts to taste.

Add long beans, snow fungus, and bok choy. Put to a boil and turn off heat.

Serve hot preferably with rice and black bean condiment on the side.

Notes

On toasting and grinding the rice: Toast rice on a pan over high heat. Constantly stir for about 15 minutes or until rice has turned fully light brown. Pulverize using a food processor or high speed blender. Transfer to a container. Repeat procedure for toasting the peanuts.

On grinding the peanuts: I use a high-speed blender which could make the texture very sticky. You could use a spatula to scrape the sides and blend further. Or you could pour about a cup of the broth from the simmering pot into the blender to get the blender going and grind the peanuts further.

You could use peanut butter instead of toasted peanuts and rice. Just make sure the peanut butter is mainly peanuts and water.

You could find snow fungus at most Asian grocery stores.

As bonus, I’m also including in the video the instructions on how to prepare the banana blossom, an optional yet nostalgic ingredient of the traditional Kare-kare. For those who never heard of it before, banana blossom is the flower of the banana tree. Like artichokes, banana blossom also takes special handling but it’s not complicated at all. For those who never tasted banana blossom before, it’s a cross between artichokes and bamboo shoots. I highly recommend to try it even at least once!

Making Kare-kare is an experience in itself. You’ll discover the rich flavors of not just the banana blossom but also of the toasted ground rice and peanuts. So in essence, even though the recipe is vegan, it’s still paying homage to the old way of making this dish because of these traditional ingredients. And because there are no meat to tenderize, the cooking time is much faster. In other words, this recipe proves you can have authentic-tasting Kare-kare without animal products. Yes, it’s very possible -and delicious too!

Kain na, let’s eat!

First published in: http://www.astigvegan.com/vegan-kare-kare-recipe-with-video/


 Richgail Enriquez

Richgail Enriquez

RG Enriquez at astigvegan.com discovers ways to show that Filipino food can be vegan, healthy, and delicious without losing its soul. Born and raised in the Philippines, RG veganizes the Filipino food of her childhood. She has appeared on the television show, "Adobo Nation" and given demonstrations and talks at "Savor Filipino", "Taste of South Lake”, “Barrio Fiesta”, Pitzer College, and Cal-State East Bay.


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