Keep Calm and Kare Kare On


2018 was a rough year.  At times, it felt like it was devoid of kindness, basic human decency and just plain old decorum.  And I’m just talking about 45.  The news was increasingly hard to watch with Stormy Daniels, mass shootings, Supreme Court confirmation hearings–it was all too much.

Enter: Kare kare (pronounced car-eh car-eh).  Kare kare is a Filipino dish of oxtail stew with an assortment of vegetables all braised in a peanut sauce and served with salty shrimp paste. Kare kare is above all else comfort food. It’s the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket, fuzzy slippers, and a hot toddy which means you can use a whole steaming platter of it just about now, while you watch the undoing of the Affordable Care Act and the events of the government shutdown unfold.

In my family, this is the dish that emerges from the kitchen in a giant dutch oven and arrives at the table, surrounded  by relatives with plates in hand, almost salivating  in amazement. Nothing I’ve ever cooked has ever received that kind of a reception, so after much texting and reassurance from Tito Boy, the best kare kare maker ever, I attempted this dish.

I made it in my Instant Pot which I procured from Amazon as a Black Friday deal from 2 years ago. Until recently, I had never used it because pressure cookers scare me.  But the Instant Pot is great under pressure (ha!) and is a handy, versatile tool.



  • 1 lb beef stew meat
  • 1-2 lbs oxtail
  • 2 Filipino or Chinese eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch long
  • 1 bunch long beans
  • 4  baby bok choy
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy, never chunky)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 beef bouillion cube
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. annatto powder
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced in wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • shrimp paste
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil



1. Select the ‘saute’ setting on your Instant Pot and brown the meats in one tbsp. of vegetable oil.  When browned, set aside.

2. Saute onions and garlic until translucent. Deglaze the pot with 1 cup of beef  broth and 1 tbsp. fish sauce. Let the broth boil and put back the meat in.  Add 2 more cups of broth, or enough until the meat is submerged.

3. Close the lid of your Instant Pot and change the settings to ‘pressure cook/manual’ and ‘high’ for 35 minutes.

4. While waiting for the meat to cook, prepare your vegetables. Fry the eggplant, and blanch the bok choy and long beans.

5.  When cooking is complete do a quick release, take out the meat and set aside.

6. Stir in the peanut butter.

7.  Mix 1 tbsp of annatto powder with 2 tbsp of broth.  Then add the broth/annato concoction into the pot and watch it turn into the beautiful orange color kare kare is known for.  Annato is not optional, as other blogs will tell you.  Trust.

8.  Adjust the seasonings according to preference by adding fish sauce, salt and pepper.

9. Once you are satisfied with the taste and *consistency of the sauce, add the meat in.  Stir in the vegetables.

10. Serve with hot rice and spicy shrimp paste on the side.


Super secret pro tip:  Tito Boy mixes in a few teaspoons of salted shrimp paste in his famous kare kare.

A brief tutorial on shrimp paste from an Americanized Pinay (so take it with a grain of salty bagoong):

  • The Tagalog word for shrimp paste is bagoong.
  • Bagoong comes  in a sauteed and raw version.  For kare kare, use only the sauteed version.  I don’t know why, it just tastes better.
  • There are different brands but the Barrio Fiesta pictured below is the only one I use.  It’s the only one Tito Boy uses too, so I’m assuming it’s the best.
  • I prefer spicy bagoong to the salty as it gives the dish more of a kick.
  • Bagoong is shockingly salty.  Take a scant teaspoon–less than scant–top your kare kare with it and enjoy with hot rice.