Unlike in most of South East Asian countries, Indian Curries are not popular in the Philippines because powdered spices were not a major part of our cuisine, spices like turmeric, cardamom, cumin, fenugreek and coriander. Our cuisine basically is almost a subset of the Spanish and Chinese cuisine where common day to day dishes starts with a sauté, a key method to build up the flavours. If the Spanish has garlic, onions and tomato in a form of Sofrito, the Chinese stir fries starts with sautéed onions and ginger, the Philippines married those two together in a form of “ginisa” where most of our main dishes start with a sauté of garlic, onion and ginger. That became the basis of our cuisine hence the Indian method of starting with many spices never became popular, even though they were visiting the Philippines since the mid 1700’s. At that time their population was not that huge to influence the Filipino cuisine and even the bulk of the Indian immigrants came around 1930’s to 1940’s it was too late to marry their cuisine to the Philippines as the Filipinos already had developed the taste for “ginisa”.
Having said that there are still few dishes that was influenced by them like the Kare Kare, a replacement for a Madrasi curry when their supplied of madras curry powder back then ran out, the Indians had to improvised and use local ingredients as substitutes for the Indian spices. As a result turmeric was replaced by annatto, while yoghurt was replaced by coconut milk. Another influence was the Filipino Chicken Curry where chicken cooked with bay leaves, garlic, onions, ginger and curry powder. Down South specially the Mindanao region are used to bolder flavours since they are nearer to Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia compared to Luzon hence they have traditional dishes where curry spices are involved like the kulma, a take on the Indian korma; tiyula itum, a beef curry cooked with burnt coconut meat and Chicken piaparan prepared with Chicken cooked in turmeric and chillies plus the normal ginisa ingredients like garlic, onions and ginger, of course it is stewed in coconut milk.
Another influence on the Filipino cuisine was the establishment of karinderia, which came from kari or karehan, a stall where the Indians during the old days sold curry dishes to locals who were travelling through Rizal on its way to Antipolo Cathedral.
Today our recipe is another dish influenced by the Indian cuisine, at least the sauce, since beef is not widely consumed in that country due to religious reasons. Unlike the Indian curries, this is not that spicy at all, it is not hot either, it has that twist of Filipino taste where it is savoury, a bit sweet, garlicky, creamy and with subtle hints of curry powder. So for those who cannot take spices or chillies, then this is the curry for you.