We had one of the busiest weeks the past few days. I am sure you’ve had one of those. The days just blended into nights and today merged with tomorrow without warning. I had writing deadlines, appointments, and unending errands. But like always, I depend on old favorites like Asado de Carajay to help me put dinner on the table. It is the classic Filipino dishes that I learned to cook early on which are the easiest for me. I can do them from memory, without checking a cookbook or searching online.
This Asado de Carajay (say ‘kah-rah-hay’) was a perfect example. It’s something my mom used to make often in the Philippines. Her asado consisted of chicken. I chose to cook mine with pork cubes because that was what I had available. But one thing was common with mom’s dish and mine : fresh tomatoes.
As summer ended here in the east coast, I took advantage of the abundance of fresh tomatoes. I particularly love the sweet vine-ripened organic Jersey tomatoes I can buy near my home. They are fresh, plump, juicy and as sweet as fruit. Wait, tomatoes are fruits. But that’s another blog post for next time.
I embellished this recipe by adding Spanish chorizo slices and shreds of napa cabbage to the simmering ‘carajay’ filled with succulent tomatoes and robust pork shoulder cubes.
I used to think the word ‘carajay’ meant one of the ingredients in the dish. Later I found out the Spanish word ‘carajay’ meant the large skillet where the all-in-one meal could be cooked. A carajay is shaped like the Asian wok. During frequent trips to the Philippines, I have tried a couple of times to pack a carajay into my suitcase. Each time, my suitcase would be overweight and bulged at the sides. When this happened, my husband convinced me to leave the carajay behind, assuring me there would be skillets I could buy in America which were comparable, and probably even better, he said.
I did find something similar, but it was a Chinese wok. It was from the Asian grocery where I buy most of my Filipino ingredients. I seasoned the wok accordingly and started cooking right away. The asado cooked quickly and the aromas from the simmering tomatoes transformed from tart to sweet. If you’re going to try this recipe, do not worry if you don’t own a ‘carajay’ or a wok. A large skillet will do just fine.
As for me, I vow someday, I shall get to fit an honest to goodness carajay into my suitcase and bring it back with me. When I do, I’ll be cooking a lot of old Philippine favorite dishes on that dependable skillet. They shall be the kind of entrees that will get me through any busy day I will ever encounter.
Asado de Carajay
- Large wok or skillet (12 to 14 inches diameter)
- 2.5 pounds fat trimmed, cut in 2-inch cubes pork shoulder
- 2 Tablespoons cooking oil or vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 medium cut in cubes onion
- 1 can 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup soup stock or broth
- 1 to 2 pieces peeled, quartered potatoes
- 1 medium peeled, sliced in rounds carrot
- 2 large pieces sliced fresh tomatoes
- 1 piece bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded in strips napa cabbage
- 1 large piece sliced (optional) Spanish chorizo
- 1/3 cup slices or long strips seeded (optional for garnish) red or green bell pepper
- for serving boiled rice
- In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the cooking oil. Saute the garlic and onions for 1 to 2 minutes till the latter is translucent.
- Add the pork cubes. Braise pork for 1 to 2 minutes in the skillet till pieces turn slightly brown. Add the tomato, potato and carrot slices. If desired, add chorizo slices.
- Pour the tomato sauce, bay leaf and soup stock or broth. Season with paprika powder, salt and black pepper powder. Blend ingredients well.
- Cover and cook till the pork cubes are cooked and the vegetables are soft, for about 45 minutes.
- Add the napa cabbage at the last 2 minutes of cooking. Garnish with green or red bell pepper strips if desired. Serve with boiled white rice.
- Cook's comments: other versions and recipes of 'Asado de Carajay' use chicken or beef for the main ingredient. I used pork cubes because it was what I had in my kitchen. Feel free to use the meat more convenient for you.
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