Earlier this year we went on a cruise with a group of friends and relatives to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Every evening the chef offered a different Asian specialty item that wasn’t on the printed menu.
Our waiter dutifully informed us of the nightly special knowing my fellow cruisers were always willing to try it.
One evening we made it to our table first, as we awaited the others our waiter informed me that the evening’s special Asian dish was an Indonesian specialty called “Braised Short Ribs in Peanut Sauce”. It sounded good, so I told him we’d like one order to share with the table. When our table mates arrived they asked what the nightly special was, I dutifully told them it was an Indonesian dish called Braised Short Ribs in Peanut Sauce and that I’d ordered one for out table. My aunt gave me a funny look and said, “You mean you ordered Kare-Kare!”
Uh, duh!! The light bulb came on! I laughed and told her I guess that’s right. When the waiter came around again he was told that the nightly special was a favorite Filipino dish, not Indonesian. The waiter being Indonesian begged to differ claiming it was a favorite Indonesian specialty which he has enjoyed all his life. A friendly argument ensued to which we concluded it made sense that one culture or the other adapted the dish and called it their own.
The only difference we could tell was that the Filipino version usually uses ox tail, chicken, beef tripe, or on some occasions pork knuckles; and it’s served with a pungent salty shrimp paste on the side. The dish was served and it was very similar to the Filipino version, just lacking the shrimp paste; the lack of which my husband was grateful of, he hates this smelly condiment!
I usually make this dish for myself, my cousin, and daughter-in-law to enjoy. The rest of the family doesn’t care for it, they’re turned off by the shrimp paste, a condiment we Filipinos insist make the dish. The shrimp paste is called “bagoong” and is very similar to the Chinese “hum ha”. It’s very salty and we saute it in garlic. It’s sold in jars and can be found in Asian markets, both “raw” and already sauteed in garlic. I have to buy the sauteed jar because frying it up will make the whole house stink for days!
I did decide after tasting the tender short ribs that in the future I’d only make it using short ribs or chicken. We like it with plenty of veggies, I use string beans and Bok Choy. Many folks also add eggplant, but I’m allergic to it so I make mine without. They also use banana hearts (the flower bud that’s found at the bottom end of a bunch of bananas), since I don’t have banana trees I don’t have any banana hearts so I omit this as well. It’s best served with steamed white rice and of course a side of the shrimp paste if you dare.
3 lbs. Boneless Beef Short Ribs, cut in thirds
2 cups beef broth
4-5 cups water
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup annatto seeds + 1 cup hot water
1 bunch of Bok Choy, cut into large pieces
1 bunch of long string beans, cut into halves or thirds
1 eggplant cut in large chunks (optinal)
2 tsp. minced garlic
Oil for sauteing
1. Place short rib pieces and beef broth in a large pot. Add 4-5 cups water, or enough to cover the meat.
2. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 45 minutes or until meat is tender.
3. Meanwhile soak annatto seeds in hot water for at least 30 minutes. Water should turn reddish. Strain seeds out of the water. Reserve the reddish water.
4. When meat is tender add 1 cup beef stock to the peanut butter and stir until smooth.
5. Stir in peanut butter mixture into the pot.
6. Add reserved annatto water. Stir well. Mixture should turn a reddish orange color.
7. Add veggies and cook until the veggies are done. About 10 minutes depending on the veggies you use.
8. In a large deep pan saute minced garlic until it starts to turn brown.
9. Pour the meat and sauce into the pan.
10. Saute in pan until the sauce thickens and is reduced by half.
Serve hot over steamed white rice with a side of shrimp paste. Shrimp paste can be added to the meat and sauce a little bit at a time as the food is eaten as each diner will prefer differing amounts of it, or none at all.