So I'm starting a new post based on the above discussion with the link below. In double quotes and OP is the original poster's post and then I'm replying:
OP "....but it's as if Kare-Kare will always be linked with oxtail."
You have to remember filipinos are a poor people. Meat, especially beef, is in short supply in the Philippines except for pigs for pork. Oxtail was one of the cheapest cuts of meat and so it was used in kare kare. Of course it would take MANY hours to tenderize it (until the pressure cooker was invented in the US), but just the fat and gelatin on it would make the stew that much more flavorful.
OP "So my question is, why is that the case? I understand that oxtail in general is used to make good broth, but the peanut butter used in Kare-Kare almost completely overpowers the beef flavor produced by the broth, and you even have the bagoong afterwards which imparts a strong saltiness as well. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of using oxtail to begin with."
With fillipinos, it's all about the "sabaw" or sauce in the dish. The better the sabaw, the more flavorful it is to spread it all over the white rice, the main staple for filipinos and most Asians. This is why Jollibee's is so popular with filipinos since they truly cater to filipino customers' tastebuds and they'll include a sauce with their fried chicken compared to other places that don't. Filipinos will spread the sauce all over the white rice while they eat the main dish or "ulam" which is the fried chicken. White people can eat their bread with their main meal without any sauce or just spread butter on them, but filipinos like a flavorful and in kare kare's case, thick sauce. Also, since the sauce is peanuts and peanut butter, it means more protein, which will keep you going with more energy throughout the long hot day as you all know while packing away your peanut butter sandwiches for lunch or as a snack. Before the Americans came to colonize the Philippines, my mother said filipinos did NOT have easy access to peanut butter. They only had peanuts and they would use a long intricate process crushing them along with some rice to form the peanut sauce. Once the Americans gave the filipinos peanut butter, it was no longer that much of a drudgery trying to make the sauce. I assume then that in the past before peanut butter was introduced, the peanut sauce wasn't as bold in flavor as it is since the Americans came.
The "bagoong," or shrimp paste, was meant to be the "salt" to complement the slightly sweet peanut butter sauce in kare kare. These days, people are in a hurry and it's cheaper and more convenient to just directly add the salt to it rather than have to go thru the trouble of preparing bagoong to go with it. But yes, filipino food is BOLDY SALTY/SOUR or BOLDLY SALTY/SWEET. Always remember that and you should not then be surprised by why the combinations in flavor are the way they are. I've seen filipinos like my older sister who are already eating a salty main filipino dish like "nilaga" (basically a meat vegetable stew) and yet, they'll add lots of "patis," (a very salty fish sauce), to their main meal and rice for more salty taste.
OP "And I suppose if you really want to be picky about it, other types of cuts can be used to produce the same effect, something with a relatively high gelatinous content such as short rib, or maybe beef bones to make the broth, and then use that in conjunction with a meatier cut."
You've seen the high cost of oxtail? In the past, say 40 and more years ago, oxtail was one of the CHEAPEST cuts. Now, it isn't, so you will see very few filipino families using oxtail unless it's a celebration event. As you said, there are other cuts with high gelatin that can be used. Pork with lots of fat and skin can give you the same result but cheaper. Even tripe is added in kare kare. In fact, if you eat at filipino restaurants, many of them DO NOT use oxtail anymore. They may use another cut of beef or they may use pork or even seafood, but many no longer use oxtail meat. If they do, you won't get many big pieces on your plate. But it doesn't matter. As long as whatever meat is used is tender along with the vegetables and the sauce has a real peanutty taste (and not just some cheap food coloring from a cheap commercial instant mix packet), then it doesn't matter whether or not oxtail is used.
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