A meat and vegetable stew in peanut sauce, kare-kare is a Filipino dish cooked with various beef offal. Tripe, tail, leg and face are popular choices. Crispy pork belly kare-kare is a modern take on this all-time favorite.
There is, of course, a recipe for traditional kare-kare in the archive. And that was what I was supposed to cook when, a few days ago, Speedy had a kare-kare craving. He bought all the vegetables that the dish requires but, unfortunately, he was unable to find oxtail.
Not wanting to let the vegetables go bad in the fridge, I suggested crispy pork belly kare-kare. We had pork belly in the freezer. I bought it pre-sliced which meant the cooking time would be much shorter.
Now, I did not invent this recipe. There are a number of restaurants that serve kare-kare this way. I’ve always thought it was an inspired version but the mere thought of ALL THAT work to make the dish at home intimidated me. So, consider this recipe as me finally defeating intimidation.
You will need bone broth to make the sauce. We happened to have plenty because… Well, we had been experimenting using different cuts of beef for our homemade corned beef. I brined a kilo of brisket, a kilo of beef crest and a kilo of short ribs and, after slow cooking them all together, I had A LOT of richly flavored bone broth.
I’m not saying you have to make corned beef for the broth for making crispy pork belly kare-kare. Just good quality bone broth should suffice. But substituting commercial broth cubes will totally ruin the dish.
We would have been happier if the pork belly slices were thicker. Before cooking they were half an inch thick. After boiling and frying, that was how thin they had become. If you plan on cooking crispy pork belly kare-kare, get slices of pork belly that are about an inch thick. Thicker even. The cooking time will be longer but the texture of the meat after frying will be better.
Crispy Pork Belly Kare-kare
- 400 to 500 grams pork belly cut into slices anywhere from 1/2 to 1 inch thick
- 4 to 6 cups bone broth preferably well- seasoned
- 2 tablespoons rice flour (NOT glutinous)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons annatto seeds
- 1 small bunch sitaw (yard-long beans) cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 small white cabbage cut into wedges
- 1 small banana heart trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rings
- 1 large eggplant (preferably the long Asian variety), diced
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- cooking oil for deep frying
Arrange the pork belly slices in a wide shallow pan. Cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes.
Drain the pork belly and rinse well to remove scum. Discard the water.
Clean out the pan (or use another wide shallow pan) and spread the pork belly slices on the bottom. Pour in the broth and bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until tender. Halfway through the cooking time, taste the broth and add salt, if needed.
While the pork cooks, toast the rice flour in an oil-free frying pan over medium heat until lightly browned and nutty in aroma. Set aside.
Scoop out the pork belly slices, move to a rack and allow to cool.
Pour the broth into a pot and reheat. Dump in the annatto seeds and boil until the broth turns reddish. Scoop out the annatto seeds and discard.
Reheat the broth. Throw in the sitaw and cabbage wedges. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Scoop out, transfer to a plate and set aside. Do not turn off the heat.
Add the banana heart and eggplant to the boiling broth. Cook just until done, about 10 minutes. Scoop out, move to a plate and set aside.
Make the peanut sauce. Take out half a cup of the broth from the pan and pour into a heat proof bowl. Add the peanut butter and rice flour; stir until smooth.
Pour the peanut butter mixture into the hot broth. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until smooth and thickened. Set aside.
Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Fry the pork belly slices until browned and crisp. Do this in batches, if necessary, so that the pork slices do not touch one another during frying to ensure even cooking and browning.
Reheat the sauce. Add all the cooked vegetables, stirring gently. Cook just until simmering.
Pour the sauce and vegetables into a bowl. Top with the crispy pork belly. Serve immediately.
Click on the links in the ingredients list for more details about bone broth, annatto seeds and banana heart.