What is the difference between Afritada, Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta?
If you are a Filipino and you haven’t asked yourself what the difference is between Mechado, Menudo, Afritada and Kaldereta, you are not eating good enough. If you have a Filipino food blog and you don’t know what the answer to that question, good luck to you too. I have been looking for a kitchen hermit that can answer this for me and I couldn’t find one. Maybe there isn’t one. Well, until I looked at the mirror and realized I really need a new razor and a very gay barber.
So, in order to know what the difference is between these dishes, let’s take a look at the similarities first.
They are classified as Cocidos or Spanish stews. To make the “broth even clearer”, Cocido is a stew of vegetables and meat, either beef, pork, chicken, goat (or chevre if you wear a tie) or even fish. Mechado, Menudo, Afritada and Kalderata — these Filipino variations of Spanish Cocidos share the same stock that is blessed by the gods of Mexico which is tomato sauce. Any of these stews could be present on the Filipino table depending on the availability of the ingredients in the kitchen. You can be making an Afritada but if you don’t have sausages, that dish can take the direction of Mechado. You can be making Mechado but you decided to chop your meat or use ground meat which in turn classifies as Menudo. A neighbor dropped by and told you they just recently killed their pet chicken, Nancy and they gave you its liver, so you decided to make Kaldereta instead of Menudo. Here take a guess on which is which:
Although every family has its own version of these Cocidos, we’ll try to differentiate them generally. So get on with your gas mask and let’s infiltrate the heavy smoke of confusion in three, two, one, engage:
Generally, Afritada is a chicken stew in tomato sauce with potatoes, carrots and bell pepper. This is the basic of all the Filipino tomato-based stews. It is the gateway to learning. Once you learn how to cook Afritada, you are in for Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta. What makes this recipe so good is that it is so easy to make and the more you let that chicken simmer in your stew base, the more flavors it will give you back.
The traditional Mechado meat has a thick layer of fat slipped in the middle of the meat, hence the term Mechado which means larded in Spanish. Mechado also refers to the Spanish word mecha and the Filipino word mitsa which is the wick of a kerosene-lamp. The fat in the middle of the meat resembles a wick. Am I just repeating myself to get my message across? Your sauce will depend on the fat that you slip through the meat. Usually, we use pork loin fat or bacon fat to boost the flavor of the sauce. The different face of Mechado’s sauce is the Chinese and Malayan kick to it… soy sauce or fish sauce is used to flavor and give its tomato sauce a flying kick. And that is where the genius of this Filipino dish; fusing Mediterranean and Oriental flavors. For a lazy man’s Mechado, you can get meat that has thick layers of fat in it and not worry about how to slip a cylindrical fat in a huge chunk of meat or roll fat with meat. Beef is the usual meat in Mechado and potatoes and carrots are the usual vegetables.
The meat in Menudo is usually pork – chopped to smaller pieces to the point of being ground or minced meat. Famous variations have pork liver in them, also in small cubes. The vegetables, again, potatoes and carrots are also sliced to small cubes and should be as big as the peas that come with it. Menudo has chickpeas and green peas. That is the one distinct character it has from the rest of the Filipino Cocido collection. Menudo is also much more sweeter than other stews because it has raisins. If you feel like having an explosion of textures in your mouth, this is the stew to make. Silly Filipino students who spend all their allowance on alcohol and other impulse purchases find a friend in Menudo because they can finish 3 cups of rice with just 3 tablespoons of Menudo. I myself wouldn’t have finished my major without Menudo.
To those who still insist on using beef, Kaldereta is strictly goat’s meat. If you use beef, you should call it Baka-reta (seriously, that’s how it is called). Kaldereta unofficially is the Philippines’ national stew. Everyone loves it, everyone makes it, we have it in cans, we can Tuna Kaldereta too and there is a Kaldereta baby food (alright i’m assuming on that one). Put simply, if there is a stew that every Filipino likes it would be Kaldereta. Although most people would prefer to eat Bakareta. The usual vegetables mixed in Kaldereta are potatoes, carrots, green peas and bell peppers (capsicums). What makes Kaldereta different from the four is it has the thickest sauce and its sauce is mixed with another ingredient in order to reach that consistency. Usually we use chicken liver to give body to the sauce but depending on the handover of the recipe from the family ghost to the haunted, the thickener can be flour, cheese, bread crumbs, Sky Flakes (Filipino crackers that are given to the sick and lonely) and even peanut butter.
I hope this post helped you out in clearing the differences between our Filipino stews Afritada, Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta. If it’s not clear to you yet let me spell it out again.
What is Afritada – Afritada is the basic Filipino tomato based stew. That’s chicken in tomato sauce with potato, carrots and bell pepper.
What is Mechado – Mechado is usually a beef stew cooked with a thick layer of fat in the meat and has soy sauce in its tomato sauce.
What is Menudo – Menudo is usually a pork stew chopped to small pieces as big as the chickpeas, green peas and cubed potatoes and carrots. Its tomato sauce is usually sweet.
What is Kaldereta – Kaldereta is a goat meat stew and has a thick tomato sauce usually mixed with chicken liver, bread crumbs or cheese.
Now as to the spiciness or how hot these dishes can get, it will be again, depending on an individual’s recipe. To put it simply, your dad wants his Kaldereta to be made from the deepest dungeons of hell, while your mom wants hers to be just on the lower end of the Scoville scale so the family can have dinner without dealing with the devil.
If it’s not clear to you yet, watch out for my next post as we go through these dishes in detail one by one.