At the Filipino restaurant Tito Rad’s Grill & Restaurant, I was taught how to make Kare Kare, a stew with oxtail braised in a peanut butter sauce. Sounds fairly delicious, right? Well, they also taught me a way to make it even better — at the last minute.
During the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, a variety of vegetables like greens beans and halved baby bok choy are added to the mix and then steamed until tender, just about 10 minutes.
Throwing vegetables into the dish the end of the braising cooking process was a revelation. The veggies added crunchiness and freshness to the mushiness of a braised dish (and I say mushy in a lovingly way, of course).
It also adds a dab of color and puts less pressure on needing to whip up an extra side dish, since the vegetables can sub as one. It’s now my secret trick to both bulking up any braised dish and providing a nice textural contrast in the meal.
Cooking Secrets from Immigrant Kitchens
While working on my latest cookbook, Queens: A Culinary Passport, I chatted with cooks and chefs from diverse ethnic backgrounds (Himalayan, Cuban, Cypriot, Szechuan, and more). As I learned how to replicate their dishes in my own kitchen, I amassed a slew of tips from them that I began using in my everyday cooking life.