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.
- 1-2 banana blossom bud, fresh (canned, which is ready to use, is an ok alternative)
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and minced
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- few pinches sea salt
- 8 cups water
- 2 eggplants, cut into one-inch slices
- 2 cups vegetable broth or more to taste
- 4½ tablespoons achuete or annatto powder, mixed and fully dissolved in 2 cups water
- 1 cup peanuts, toasted and blended with ¾ cup water until smooth and creamy. (regular peanut butter is an okay alternative).
- ½ cup white rice, toasted and ground to a powder (toasted rice flour is a good alternative), mixed in ¾ 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 warm water for 1-3 minutes, base removed, cut into big chunks (textured soy protein is an ok alternative)
- 1 bundle baby bok choy, bottom stalk cut off, thoroughly washed
- 2 tablespoons black bean sauce mixed in 2 tablespoons nori seaweed flakes/powder (as condiment) (optional)
- Peel outer layers of banana blossom until you reach the pale yellow, tender bud. Discard outer layers and yellow pistils. Have a large bowl of salt or lemon 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/lemon water. Dismantle layers and soak for at least 15 minutes. Discard soaking water and do a final rinse.
- 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.
- Add peanut butter. Simultaneously pour rice mixture while mixing pot with a ladle. Keep mixing until sauce gets smooth and creamy. 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 peanut butter to taste.
- Add long beans, snow fungus, and baby bok choy. Put to a boil and turn off heat.
- Serve hot preferably with rice and black bean sauce on the side.
On grinding the peanuts: follow the same steps for toasting the rice then blend the peanuts with water until smooth and creamy. You’ll need a strong food processor or a high-speed blender to reach a smooth texture. Alternatively, you can use store-bought peanut butter. Just make sure that the ingredients are mostly peanuts and if possible have no sugar.
You could find snow fungus, achuete, banana blossom, and baby bok choy 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!
Want to learn more about banana blossom, achuete, and snow fungus? Find out what they are and where can you find them.
Want more ideas for Vegan Filipino party food? Here’s a list.
SHOP THE RECIPE:
- Vegetable broth
- Achuete or annatto powder
- White rice
- Dried snow fungus
- Banana blossom
- Black bean sauce
- Nori seaweed
*Please note that the written recipe is more precise than the video version. The written recipe gets revised regularly for improvements.