I added chunks of crisp Lechon Kawali to the famous Philippine dish Kare-Kare. It is a sumptuous stew of boiled ox tail simmered in a sweet peanut-tasting broth. Thrown in are a potful of native vegetables : Asian eggplants, sitaw or yard-long green beans and bok choy (Chinese cabbage). When we were growing up, this was a staple Sunday dinner. My mother boiled the ox tail and tripe, for hours till it was tender enough to fall off the bone. And Kare-Kare was always served with a hefty serving of bagoong, a salty shrimp paste.
Kare-Kare has a long history in Filipino cuisine. Its origins are believed to have come from dishes influenced by other Asian neighbors like India and Indonesia. Growing up in Tarlac, I recall my mother’s family recipe involved grinding peanuts, uncooked rice grains, and a mixture of annatto seeds to thicken the broth. Since living in America, I have found a shortcut to my family’s old methods. I can cook this stovetop, or else in the Instant Pot. And another option is the slow cooker, too. No matter which way you choose to cook this stew, be prepared for the onslaught of nutty, savory aromas to fill the air once you uncover the cauldron. And with the addition of crunchy Air Fryer lechon cubes on top, this will make your party fare or family meal a memorable one.
There are several versions of this amazing stew of comforts, but it all boils to one thing: It is a terrific beef-pork and vegetables peanut stew. And when the family gathers around the table, this will be the perfect colorful and vivid, all-in-one meal at the center of the feast.
Lechon Kawali on Kare-Kare - Instant Pot + Air Fryer
- 1 Instant Pot multicooker/ pressure cooker 6 quarts or 8 quarts
- 1 Air Fryer
- 1 Dutch Oven or large stockpot; for cooking stovetop
- 1 Large Skillet
- 4 to 6 pounds ox tail, sliced in serving pieces; about 5 to 6 pieces
- 8 to 10 cups water
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and minced; Divided, save 4 cloves for boiling; rest for peanut sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound pork belly, whole slab, boneless, fat trimmed
- 1 cup water, for boiling the pork
- ½ teaspoon salt, for the pork
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, for the pork
- 2 teaspoons achuete (annatto) powder, soaked in 1/2 cup warm water
- ½ cup uncooked long grain rice
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 whole large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup chunky peanut butter
- 3 cups ox tail beef broth; reserved from boiling the ox tail
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large Asian eggplants, sliced; about 2 cups
- 2 cups sliced sitaw (long green beans); cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large bok choy (Chinese cabbage); coarsely chopped
- 1 cup bagoong guisado (sauteed shrimp paste)
- steamed rice
To prepare the ox-tail: Stovetop + Instant Pot
- Place the ox tail, water, 4 garlic cloves, salt and black pepper in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium. Continue cooking till the meat is tender, for about 2 hours.To cook in the Instant Pot: Place the ox tail, 6 cups water, garlic, salt and black pepper in the inside pot of the Instant Pot. Cover and lock the lid. Set sealing valve.Click on High Pressure + Meats/Stews + 40 minutes.*When the meat is tender, remove from the broth.Reserve 3 cups of the ox tail broth for cooking the stew in peanut sauce. Set aside the meat and the liquid, separately.
To prepare the lechon : Stovetop + Air Fryer
- In a medium-sized stockpot, place the whole slab of pork, water enough to cover, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 35 minutes till tender and cooked thoroughly. Remove the pork slab from the liquid (Note: Keep the broth refrigerated or in the freezer as a base for other dishes).Dry meat with paper towels. Let the pork dry out on a flat tray. When dry enough, cook the Lechon Kawali in the Air Fryer. I have shared this in a past blog post.To cook Lechon Kawali Air Fryer, click here for instructions.
To cook the peanut sauce:
- Soak the achuete powder in very warm water for at least 20 minutes. Mix to dilute the powder. When water has turned dark orange and there are hardly traces of powder, strain the liquid in a small colander. Save the achuete liquid and set aside.Separately, place the uncooked rice in a large, dry skillet. Over medium heat, roast the rice for about 8 to 10 minutes till it is light brown and has a nutty aroma. *Do not leave unattended or rice will burn. Transfer rice to a food processor or blender. Process till it is a fine powder. You will get about 1/2 cup of rice powder. Set aside.Using the same large stockpot (empty of the liquid and ox tail meats), add the vegetable oil. When oil is hot, saute the remaining garlic and onions till soft. Pour the achuete water and simmer. Add the roasted rice powder and peanut butter. Pour the reserved broth from boiling the ox tails. Blend ingredients.Add the cooked ox tails to the broth. Mix well and stir every so often to avoid the rice powder sticking to the bottom of the stockpot. (Note: The rice powder thickens the broth).Add the eggplants, sitaw, and bok choy to the simmering ox tail stew. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes more till vegetables are soft.
To assemble the Lechon Kawali on the Kare-Kare:
- As soon as the lechon kawali is cooked and crisp from the Air Fryer, place on parchment paper or paper towels to remove excess grease. Transfer the lechon to a chopping board, and chop the chunks to about 2-inch cubes.Plate the cooked Kare-Kare peanut stew in a large serving bowl. Nestle the vegetables next to the meat. Pour the peanut sauce all over.At table side, place the crisp pieces of Lechon Kawali over the Kare-Kare. Serve warm with rice, and a side dipping sauce of Bagoong Guisado.
- Other Kare-Kare peanut stew recipes have tripe (or towalya as Filipinos call it), and more assorted backyard vegetables, like a large banana blossom (pusong saging). I did not have access to these ingredients, thus they were not included here. Feel free to add your own if desired. Bagoong guisado is fermented shrimp paste. This can be sauteed, and used as an ingredient, or side dipping sauce for many Filipino dishes. There are bottled Bagoong guisado sold in Filipino and Asian markets here in the USA. In the Philippines, bagoong guisado is widely sold in markets, groceries, road side stands, and food fairs. For my homemade Bagoong Guisado recipe, or Begucan as we call it in Kapampangan, check out my family's recipe in My Mother's Philippine Recipes Cookbook by Elizabeth Ann Besa Quirino (Amazon.com).
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided in the recipe links is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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