I Eat This Peanut-y Kare-Kare Sauce With Every Meal
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Kare-kare reminds me of home. Whenever I’d come back from college, the rich, savory stew would be there waiting for me, prepared by my dad or my grandmother. It was a special occasion meal, reserved for holidays and birthdays. These days it’s the thing I order most at Filipinx restaurants, and I would eat it every day if I could. And it’s the reason I always keep Fila Manila kare-kare sauce in my kitchen.
Kare-kare is a hearty, funky Southeast Asian curry situation traditionally made with peanuts and braised beef or oxtail. I love eating it with bok choy, string beans, and eggplant. Kare-kare is all about the sauce, which gets its flavor and reddish-bronze color from a dose of annatto seeds and bagoong, or fermented shrimp paste. Every Filipinx family has their own take on it—some make their sauce thinner, others make it stickier and thicker, I make mine spicy by adding some bird’s eye chili—but you can also buy pre-made jarred kare-kare sauce. Fila Manila is the best I’ve tried.
Fila Manila Kare-Kare Peanut Sauce
Compared to other brands, Fila Manila is nuttier and sweeter thanks to the addition of date nectar and coconut vinegar. It has all the baseline kare-kare flavors you expect, but it’s not too assertive or abrasive, which I like because it means I can play with other ingredients depending on what I’m making. It’s versatile and flexible, making it a great entry-level sauce if you’re just learning about Filipino cuisine.
Fila Manila kare-kare sauce is perfect for kare-kare, obviously, but recently I’ve been using it in just about everything. Coat some large prawns for shrimp and grits. Or go the Pad Thai route by adding a hit of tamarind juice, brown sugar, and chiles to the peanut-y sauce. I’ve really been loving it with pasta. I blanch some bucatini, then add some Fila Manila to a beurre blanc sauce, which makes it really aromatic and unctuous. I’ve also been playing around with adding it to my grilled cheese. I slather it on the slices of bread before toasting them in the pan. It gives the bread a lot of color and flavor, and it pairs well with Muenster and smoked gouda. I really don’t understand how it’s so good—all I know is Fila Manila’s got it down to a science.