Of Filipino-Spanish origins, pork asado de carajay is a stew cooked in a carajay (say ‘ka-rah-hay’), a large, deep pot shaped like a wok, which has a round flat bottom. This asado recipe is an all-in-one meal, with chunks of pork simmered in a tomato sauce-based broth with potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, bell peppers, and cabbage. The entrée is easy to make any day, all year round. It cooks quickly, and the family gets the wholesome goodness of meat and various vegetables, in a thick, savory, slightly sweet sauce. Simply simmer and serve it.
A One-Pan Dish With Big Rewards
I depend on favorite recipes like asado de carajay to help me make dinner on busy days. I cook the meat and vegetables, in one vessel, from start to finish. When my sons were little, it was a way to make them eat vegetables. The thickened, sweet tomato-flavored sauce coated the potatoes, carrots, and cabbage leaves well, making it a pleasant dining experience.
This recipe can be a template. My mom cooked asado de carajay often using chicken. My version has pork cubes because of its availability, and it cooks quickly. I use pork shoulder, pork loin, or even boneless pork chops cut in serving sizes. One can also use beef cubes, and it is just as superb. For special dinners, I add Spanish chorizo to give the stew a piquant flavor.
Origins and History
Filipino cooking has many Spanish-influenced dishes, since the Philippines was a colony of Spain for 300 years, as far back as the 16th century. Asado de carajay is one of those dishes, just like many others we enjoy to this day. In Philippine cooking, asado is basically meat cooked in a sauce.
A common cooking vessel from those eras was the carajay, also known as karahay in the Tagalog language, a cookware which resembles a Chinese wok.
In my mother and grandmother’s time, this was a fixture in kitchens that made many memorable meals. Made of aluminum or stainless steel, the 12 to 14-inch diameter cookware was dependable, and still is, for home cooks to stir-fry, braise, deep-fry, simmer, sauté, boil, or steam. If you don’t own a carajay or a wok, a large saucepan will work just as well.
In Philippine cooking, simmering meats and vegetables in a sauce together is fundamental. Backyard vegetables in season have always been the backbone of many Filipino dishes, especially in the rural countryside. Adding bite-sized meats to a saucy broth is the usual. And plenty of sauce, enough to pour on steamed rice, is the norm.
Sometimes, when I make asado de carajay, I cook the meat ahead, swirling in the tomato sauce broth, then I freeze it to save for a hectic week. I simply reheat the meat and sauce, then add the vegetables to cook together with the rest before dinner. By then, the slightly tart tomato sauce has had time to set, tastes sweeter, and is thicker.
More One-Pot Meals
- Pollo Guisado
- Tteokbokki (Spicy Korean rice cakes)
- One Pot Chicken and Orzo
- Creamy One Pot Pasta With Zucchini
- Guyanese Chicken Curry
Pre-cook the pork:
In a carajay, non-reactive wok, or large, wide saucepan, add the pork cubes and pour in enough water to cover the meat.
Season with a pinch each of salt and black pepper.
Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. If any scum forms around the sides of the pot, remove it with a slotted spoon. Reduce heat as needed to maintain a simmer and cook until the pork is tender, for 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Reserve at least 2 cups of the pork broth and set aside.
Make the sauce:
Use the same carajay, wok or saucepan. Pat dry with paper towels.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the oil. When oil is hot enough, sauté the garlic, onions, scallion whites, and tomatoes until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce, and sugar and stir to combine. Add the reserved 2 cups of pork broth. Stir, then add the potatoes, carrots, and pre-cooked pork pieces.
Lower the heat to medium. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thicker and the tart taste nearly gone.
Add the other vegetables:
To the simmering pan, add the green beans, cabbage, bell peppers, and chickpeas.
Season with salt and black pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes more. Stir the sauce every so often. When ready, the sauce will have a deep red color and have a thick, rich consistency.
When vegetables are cooked, garnish with the reserved chopped scallion greens.
Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. I do not recommend freezing, as the potatoes get watery and affect the tomato sauce flavor.
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