Kare-Kare Extravaganza

Whenever my mom decides to cook kare-kare it turns into a two-day extravaganza that begins with the effort of grinding nuts and pressure cooking the meat, culminating in everyone getting all bloated from overeating. Since the 80’s mom’s kare-kare has become the standard by which we measure all the kare-kare that we order in restaurants, and we biasedly think that it is the best ever. The key components, I think, are good quality oxtail and coarsely ground peanuts. We snootily look down on those that use peanut butter, and we are not impressed with variants that replace oxtail with bagnet or seafood. My mother used to mix in beef tripe for my dad, which wasn’t our favorite for being too rubbery. The bagoong has to be the pink, salty kind from the wet market, as the sweet and spicy dark brown bottled variant will ruin the experience. The kare-kare should of course be eaten with copious amounts of hot white rice, downed with Coke regular for more hedonism.

Since Grade 5 I’ve been requesting my mom to put in ox tongue in her kare-kare, but she said it wouldn’t taste great, and that good quality lengua would be difficult to find in the market. It was Toms who told me all about tongue kare-kare while we were participating in a quiz bee in Central 2. Toms was the contestant in History, while I was the Science representative for some reason. Of course I totally lost, ranking 4th in a contest with only 3 winners. My losing question was something that involved Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, and whoever was really the first man to be somewhere. Something about space vs moon. When I got much older I was able to eat in a hotel buffet serving tongue kare-kare, and indeed, it was no great shakes.

For the vegetables, sitaw, kalabasa, and puso ng saging should be enough, as they shouldn’t take attention away from the star which is the soft, gelatinous meat. Or is the star the complex soup? The roasted peanuts should still be a bit coarse, ground manually in almires. In college my mom made pundar a machine that can grind stuff, but we whined that the peanuts turned out to be too fine and made the soup thin and smooth–so it was back to the almires. Beef stock from the pressurized beef is put in the freezer overnight, after which my mother would scrape off and throw away the sebo that congealed on the top layer. The soup is perfect enough that we can still have it for dinner even if all the meat has been consumed during lunch.

After the cholesterol extravaganza I then went on the elliptical, the energy consumption of which probably amounted to two pieces of peanuts.

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