At the moment, the question would have to be, “What made you stop eating meat?” That’s because this coming Tuesday would mark my fourth week of going vegetarian.
To answer that question, I’d have to give a spoiler to the book that prompted me to stop eating meat. The book in question was “Under the Skin” (2000) by Dutch-born Michel Faber. It’s a book that defies categorization, one that skirts science-fiction, horror and thriller genres so deftly, sucking you in so effortlessly into its intended (or un-intended) message, that by the next day, I just about threw up at the sight of my breakfast of fried rice with bits of ham.
The next day, I officially quit eating meat, and while I’m still surrounded by meat in my house (bacon, sausages, steak, roast chicken) as the other two occupants are full-fledged meat eaters and today they’re all going to join the in-laws for Chinese dim sum (hubby graciously said no for me, thank goodness), all I have to remember is one word and I remain on the meatless wagon.
But for me to tell you why that word of all words, you’d have to read the book yourself.
There really isn’t anything I can think of about Old Manila that starts with the letter X – especially considering that X is not part of the native alphabet to begin with. So I’m going to cheat and use a word that though it does not begin with the letter X, has a letter X in it.
X is for Ox-Tail Stew, or Kare-Kare, a popular Filipino dish that, as the name implies, uses ox-tail as well as ox tripe as its meat component cooked in a peanut sauce along with local vegetables like eggplant, green beans, and bok choy.
With its sauce of roasted peanuts, ground toasted rice and annatto seed extract, or for those in a hurry, peanut butter, it’s often accompanied by a small side of bago-ong, or salted shrimp fry. The saltiness of the bago-ong enhances the flavors of the peanuts and the ox-tail just right.
No one really has a definite answer when it comes to learning about the origins of this dish, though some say that the name kare is Japanese for curry, and therefore is how it got its name. But then, kari means curry in Bahasa Indonesia, and their dish is also eaten with something similar to bago-ong, called sambal ulek or sambal bajak. Some say that it came from Pampanga, known as the culinary capital of the Philippines.
But wherever its origins, there’s no doubt that this is one dish, at least for me, that ranks up there among my favorites – though these days I make the vegetarian version below.