This has to be one of my all time favourites. I think its because it turns such a basic cut into something spectacular and the shrimp fry really gives it great depth.
KARE KARE – Braised Ox Tail
1 kg ox tail
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp annato oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp shrimp fry
2 tbsp rice flour (or 1/4 cup glutinous rice)
4 baby eggplant
1 bunch string beans
Place ox tail in a deep pot of cold water. Bring water to boil then drain oxtail, discarding liquid. Return ox tail into a clean pot and fill with enough water to cover. Add halved onion, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Remove ox tail from the liquid. Set aside. Strain braising liquid reserving 1 1/2 cups to make the sauce. Discar solids and remaining stock.
In a clean saucepan, heat the annato oil on medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 3-5 minutes until transluscent and cooked. Add shrimp fry and cook for a further minute. Return reserved stock and oxtail to the pot and simmer for a further half an hour.
Process peanuts in a food processor until creamy. Stir into the simmering stock. Alternatively, a couple of tablespoons of good quality smooth peanut butter works just as well.
Take a quarter cup of the simmering stock and place in a cup or shallow bowl. Mix into this the rice flour. Return mixture to the pot and stir until well incorporated. The sauce will thicken as the rice flour is incorporated. Traditionally, glutinous rice flour is used. All you need to do is to lightly toast 1/4 cup glutinous rice in a pan until lightly golden brown. Allow the rice to cool, then process into a fine powder in a food processor.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Heat a small pot of salted water in a medium pot. Cut string beans into 8-10 cm lengths. Gather beans into small bunches and tie together using spring onions. Make 2 cuts into the eggplant as if cutting it into quarters lengthwise. Do not cut all the way through as you want the stem end to remain intact.
Boil vegetables until cooked and refresh quickly in iced water.
To serve, place vegetables and pieces of oxtail onto a plate or shallow bowl. Spoon sauce over. Serve with boiled rice and a little bit of shrimp fry on the side.
Note: Annato is a seed used specifically for its capacity to colour food. You can find this in asian grocery shops and is also known as Achuete. To make annato oil, simply warm some oil and add some annato seeds. Remove from heat and set aside to infuse. Strain, reserving the oil and discarding the seeds.