Recipes and good taste are handed down from one generation to another. In the Philippines, where fiestas abound and family reunions happen more frequently than in other parts of the world, particular dishes stand out as heirloom stuff.

Pinays make a point of learning from their elders how to cook such delicious fare and they bond over secret ingredients or cooking methods imprinting unique flavors to popular dishes.

Kare-kare is one of the Philippines’ most loved of these masterpieces. Its origin not quite determined (various versions of its history have been reported), it continues to delight generations of Pinoys and their friends and relatives of various persuasions and nationalities.

The dish uses oxtail and skin, pork hocks or chicken stewed in gravy thickened with ground toasted rice or peanuts, or both. Vegetables such as snake beans, Taiwan pechay or bokchoy and banana heart give crunch and balance to the rich sauce.

To impress and satisfy those who eat kare-kare is as much the objective as knowing it has been cooked to exacting standards. This well-loved number may be done the traditional way, the cook taking time to toast rice and peanuts, grinding them in a food processor or pounding with the mortar and pestle, otherwise, prep time may be cut considerably by mixing in old reliables like ready-mix sauces. Mama Sita’s has so thoughtfully created two - Stew Base Mix (Pangkare-kare without Peanuts) or Peanut Sauce Mix (Pangkare-kare with Peanut). This way, even those with allergies can enjoy the hearty goodness of kare-kare.

Atsuete (anatto) lends the signature red-orange color to the sauce. In traditional cooking, color is transferred from the seeds to the oil by sauteeing in the initial stages.

What’s even more impressive about this dish is the fact that it doesn’t take too much to season. Dashes of salt and pepper will do. The experience is carried through by topping each kare-kare spoonful with ginisang bagoong, like the Kamayan Sauteed Shrimp Paste series.

Its rich look and flavor notwithstanding, kare-kare is actually easy to learn. With constant practice, the Pinay foodie can look forward to it taking its rightful place among treasured family recipes.