Kare Kare na Kapiz
Scallops and Vegetables with Peanut Sauce
Kare kare is traditionally cooked with oxtail or beef and ground peanuts thickened with rice flour. Peanut butter is a modern way of cooking Kare kare today for ease. As a busy mum I’m always looking for ways to cook something delicious and healthy for the family that don’t keep me in the kitchen all day. This kare kare is my modern take on the traditional dish without compromising the flavours.
Kare Kare has a colourful history, pretty much the same as the Philippines history. There are a few theories where the beginnings of this dish comes from but all sound interesting.
This is considered as truly Filipino according to Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan in their “Memories of Filipino Kitchens” cook book which won a Jane Grigson award in the US.
The first theory is that an Indonesian Prince Balagtas came to the Philippines and landed on Pampanga shores. Bringing with him some curry, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chili peppers. Maybe the first Kare had curry ingredients but when the ingredients ran out they had to find alternative ingredients. Also at that time Spain controlled trading so maybe they couldn’t get more ingredients. Spain banned so many Filipino foods or ingredients due to Filipino poisoning. LOL! During that time peanuts were already known so they added that ingredient, annatto or achiote seeds to colour the dish yellow-ish or orange to mimic turmeric. BUT chillies were taken out to suit the Spanish palate as they didn’t like spicy food. Kari = an Indo-Malay word for curry (info from Pinasarap with Kara David)
The second theory is that during the British occupation, for a very brief 2 years in Metro Manila (1762) , they brought Sepoy Indian Soldiers. The soldiers brought with them curry, masala and ground spices. When the war ended (silly 2 years and the British gave up on us after making the Spanish sweat) Some soldiers stayed and eventually merged into the Philippine society and married local girls. They settled in and around Pasig, TayTay and Cainta in Luzon. They called it Kaari or Kaikaari. (info from Pinas Sarap with Kara)
The third theory from the pre-colonial era also claims that the elite classes of the Moro or Bangsamoro people who came to settle here actually brought the nutty dish with them. Given that kare-kare is also a traditional dish in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (which are the parts of the country where the early Moro settlers first landed), there could very well be some truth to this theory. (info from pepper.ph)
Whichever theory is correct, I for one I’m very happy that we made Kare kare our own and it is loved by so many. You can typically see this dish in celebrations and special occasions.
I used scallops in this recipe but you can also use prawns too!
How to make Annatto Oil
To make annatto oil, heat 200ml vegetable oil in a pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the annatto seeds, cook for 3 minutes and turn the heat off. Leave the oil to cool down, strain the oil into a clean bottle or jar.
Where can I get annatto seeds?
I bought my annatto seeds from the Filipino grocery shop in Earls Court but you might find them in Chinatown or asian grocery store. You might also find them in Mexican or Latin grocery shops.
For the Sauce
Topping: crispy shallots
In a bowl add peanut butter, shrimp paste, water, annatto oil and black pepper. Mix all the ingredients well until the peanut butter is incorporated with the water well. Don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy. Leave it on the side for later.
Heat some butter in a frying pan or pot, cook the scallops on each side until they turn golden and season them with salt and pepper while cooking. Once cooked, take them out of the frying pan and leave them on the side for later.
In the same pan or pot where you cooked the scallops, add annatto oil and fry onions and garlic for 1 minute. Next, add all the vegetables and the peanut sauce mix. Bring it to a boil on high heat, once boiling turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Once the vegetables are cooked, turn the heat off.
Serve the kare kare with boiled rice, add the sauce to the rice, add some scallops, top it with crispy shallots and enjoy!