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What is the difference between Afritada, Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta?

6 September 2010 57 Comments

Before you go on reading, click here to know what is the difference between Filipino dishes and Spanish dishes

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:

Afritada

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.

Mechado

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.

Menudo

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.

Kaldereta

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.

*Scratching head*

Click this to go to the History of Filipino Food, Spanish Influence

If you want to know how to cook Afritada, click this

If you want to know how to cook Mechado, click this

If you want to know how to cook Menudo, click this

If you want to know how to cook Kaldereta, click this

The author actually feels good that you have read this article. He wants the world to know about Filipino food better. So help him tell other people about Filipino food by sharing this post. Click the Share on Facebook or Retweet on Twitter button. If you want to flood your friends' walls, click on it like a thousand times or something. Also, the author is not allowed to eat unless you leave a comment. So please say something, anything, please.

57 Comments »

  • Justin said:

    we usually put olives in our kaldereta sans the liver, because that’s for Menudo. you failed to mention picadillo?

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    So when will you indulge my invitation to write for myfilipinokitchen Justin?

    Olives are indeed a regular to Kaldereta but as I have mentioned, it is unusual to a regular home in the Philippines.

    And thank you for pointing out Picadillo but the variety of Picadillo in the Philippines classifies the dish as more of a dry stir-fry of ground meat. Plus the fact that Picadillo is a Mexican (or Latin American) dish and not a Spanish stew. :) So I didn’t include it. But yes, I very much appreciate your keen observation. Kudos!

  • Joy said:

    I find there are so many different variations to kalerata. It amazes me what everybody consider “normal”.

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    So how do you cook your kaldereta Joy? :)

  • Ninette said:

    Wow. How informative? I never thought about it and just ate the stews.

  • Ninette said:

    Oops. I meant “How informative!”

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Thank you very much Ninette. That is the passion of this blog. To push awareness about Filipino food even to Filipinos themselves. It’s quite a shame but true – that Filipinos don’t really dig deeper into their plate when it comes to their food. I have visited a few food blogs from the Philippines lately and most of them talk about this Italian restaurant and that American joint. It’s a bit sad but yeah. I’ll stop now. hahaha.

  • Tuesday said:

    Since I stopped eating meat, I always think about how I can do these dishes using fish or trying a veggie version. I love(d) kaldereta so I’ll have to try that tuna version!

    Thanks, Ziggy!

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Hello Tuesday! It’s good to see you here. I will be making a detailed post on the dishes above and I will make a little corner for you with a fish Kaldereta recipe because I think Tuna can get a bit tough in a stew. I myself only eat Tuna when it’s Sashimi or quick-seared. Maybe Halibut? Alright, I’ll think about it. Where’s Dan?

  • Justin said:

    i have a joke. how can you make 3 dishes from 1 dish? easy. Cook 3 pots of Nilaga baboy, and only eat 1 pot of nilagang baboy. wait for 3 weeks and the remaining 2 pots will be Sinigang na baboy. only eat 1 pot of that sinigang na baboy and wait another month. the remaining pot will now be a paksiw na baboy. please laugh.

    i will cook Bicol Express this saturday for a friend’s parteeee!, i will sharpen my knife and dust off my camera for you. my engrish needs polishing too, to be honest. i will submit myself to you after the dirty work.

    stop messing with the spanish’s comida and concentrate on our own!
    like sisig, bopis, or anything that goes good with beer. hhhhmmm… beer.

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    hahahaha goodness Justin please don’t share any food poisoning tips in this site. I honestly laughed there. for a bit. in a corny kind of laugh. LOL

    Finally, you gave in to your senses. I will be waiting for your post. I will be your grammar nazi and polish it like an army badge.

    We will get to your Sisig and Bopis in the near future. Let me just finish this History of Filipino Food series because Filipinos of the world wide web need this. You Homer.

  • Chowhound said:

    Interesting observation. I’ve never actually thought much about the differences in these stews. I just eat them! All I know is that the sauce vary in thickness and the choice of meat. They taste different though despite the similarities of the ingredients. In my Mom’s kitchen, Afritada is always made with chicken. I don’t know if other people ever make it with pork but then again, that becomes menudo if you throw in some raisins, pork liver slices and add a bit of grated cheese like my Mom does. We love kaldereta! (or bakareta as you call it). My dad is from Bicol so he adds a bit of coconut milk and siling labuyo and wow, love it! The tomato sauce and coconut milk idea may seem strange but they actually work very well.

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Yep! As I have mentioned there. Each family has their own version of each of these Stews. Your dad’s is very interesting I want to try that out. My Pa on the other hand, use peanut butter with his Kaldereta and it is as heavenly as the traditional one though you cannot taste the peanut at all.

    I would have to thank for pointing out pork liver in menudo. I will have to add that later in the post and give you credits. Cheers!

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » Happy Anniversay to Myfilipinokitchen!!!! said:

    [...] with the outrageous idea of eating tomato-based dishes four straight nights in a row just to know the difference between caldereta, menudo, afritada and mechado. It could also mean driving for an hour just to get to the Asian wet market to find the perfect soy [...]

  • Mike Gillesania said:

    Hi! I’m Lei’s friend back home (Moldex Days). Anyways, I would like to add that Filipinos love their kaldereta (or bakareta as you would call it) with Reno Liver Spread. heheheh.

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » History of Filipino Food, Spanish Influence said:

    [...] Click this if you are wondering what is the difference between the Filipino-Spanish stews – Af… Share The author actually feels good that you have read this article. He wants the world to know about Filipino food better. So help him tell other people about Filipino food by sharing this post. Click the Share on Facebook or Retweet on Twitter button. If you want to flood your friends' walls, click on it like a thousand times or something. Also, the author is not allowed to eat unless you leave a comment. So please say something, anything, please. [...]

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Hi Mike! Yes, Lei told me about you, you’re with Nel right? Congratulations on the new baby. And about that Kaldereta, we tend to put everything in it yes. Including Liver Spread.

  • cusinera said:

    thanks ziggy for taking in on the job on defining Filipino dishes and its history….Most Filipino Cookbooks doesn’t really explain that much and are caught up in the 1970′s buffet scenario on setting up the table. I love the substance in your posts, please I want some more=)

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Thanks cusinera. I still have the Japanese and American influence to tackle and whenever I read this (your) kind of comment, I am more convinced to add substance in my post rather than boring myself (and the rest of us) writing about it. Yes, you will get some more.

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » A Quick and Easy Mechado Recipe said:

    [...] we have discussed previously here, when you cook Mechado there should be a thick layer of fat in the middle of your meat. It may be a [...]

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » How to cook Mechado said:

    [...] How to cook Mechado 12 October 2010 2 Comments Before you read on, click this to know the difference between Mechado, Afritada, Menudo and Kalderet… [...]

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » How to cook Afritada said:

    [...] How to cook Afritada 3 November 2010 No Comment You need click this and read this article so you will know what in the world I’m talking about… [...]

  • Tricia Santos said:

    Thanks for clarifying. I actually googled, “what’s the difference between afritada and menudo?” And your blog popped up. Been wondering for years.

    Then there’s morcon too.

  • Louinsanfran atgmail said:

    Great question. Been wondering about this a while. I attended a wedding rehearsal dinner in Fremont CA two months ago, and at least three of these lay next to each other. They were all super delicious, but I never found out which one was the menudo, afritada, or mechado. I didn’t care at that time. It’s like youre in the moment, you know. Now I know better, thanks to you.

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    @tricia yes there is morcon and embutido too. we will tackle that in the future. thanks for suggesting!

    @loui at your service sir. I am still discovering more questions about Filipino Food as that’s what the site is all about – discovering more about Filipino food. Do you have any more burning questions?

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » What is Kaldereta? What is Caldereta? said:

    [...] You are sure as rock of that. Yes, you are correct. But what makes it different from Mechado? Or Afritada? Or Menudo? Then you remember this website actually answered those questions before so you see the words are now in blue because this is a link to that article and so you click this bluish part o…. [...]

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » Ingredients for a Kaldereta Recipe said:

    [...] As Kaldereta is in the family of Mechado, Menudo and Afritada as you read here, the basic vegetables of this Filipino-Spanish stew is potato, carrots and bell pepper in tomato sauce. I have never seen any Kaldereta in my life that missed any one of those ingredients. But when it comes to the meat used and the sauce thickener, that’s when someone would end up black and blue from fists of fury if not all red through verbal swordplay. So let’s put both of them in the spotlight. But before that, if you didn’t click the first two links in this post because you are lazy, here are the usual suspects in a Kaldero of Kaldereta: [...]

  • Rowena @ Saraplicious! Kitchen said:

    This is very informative! I love the Bakareta. I always got confused when people say Beef Kaldereta because growing up I always I associated goat with Kaldereta.

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    @Rowena correct! although it’s not official they should have named the friggin’ dish Bakareta instead of confusing it with Beef Kaldereta. Although Kaldereta literally means “to cook in a pot” as in Kaldero. :) thanks for dropping by :)

  • hannah said:

    I live in Spain, in the Navarran region and here we call them GUISOS not COCIDOS except for Menudo I think.

  • hannah said:

    Please visit my blog about Spain.

    http://bebotinspain.blogspot.com/

  • angie liamzon said:

    wew!
    all this time, i thought that the meat with tomato sauce and soy sauce that mama used to cook is menudo. and you said that it’s mechado.
    gosh!
    well, mama still amazes me with her caldereta with liver spread as her sauce thickener. hahaha! it’s the best with the zorizo de bilbao and cheese!
    yummy!
    thanks for the info. :P

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    @Hannah Generally speaking though Cocidos could either mean stew or meat with vegetables yes? And I love your site. And the Albondigas recipe. I will make one soon! And can you share your gazpacho recipe? We were just having a Spanish dinner at home 2 days ago and we didn’t have tomato juice for the gazpacho. still turned out alright. haha!

    @Angie share the recipe Angie!!!

  • Dexter said:

    Your blogs are entertaining and educational. Not the usual 1980′s cookbook ( or cookblog…..whatever ), you forgot to mention that Menudo can be Americanized by including hotdogs. Just my observation, Pochero is the same as Beef Nilaga only it has tomato sauce and chorizo? Lomi is the same as Chopsuey minus the noodles?

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    Thanks Dex! I really avoid the padded-shoulder kind of writing from the 80′s, not that I think it’s bad, it’s just a bit of stiff for me. Yes, any kind of sausage can be used for Menudo. As long as there are processed meat that look like coins, it is a dead giveaway that it’s Menudo. As for Pochero, the answer is yes and no. There is more to Pochero than Braising Beef but yes, it is basically braised. And I think you meant the other way around, Chopsuey is Lomi minus the noodles? Hmmmm… can be. Have you heard of a dish called Chupachin? :) That maybe your lomi minus the noodles plus more veggies.

  • Charisse said:

    Impressive! After years of wondering about the differences of these dishes, I finally “let the cat out of the bag” and googled away. I was skeptic that I would find an outright answer, but then, there you are! I don’t think that anybody could have explained it any clearer the way you did. Thanks for the insight!

  • Gary Murphy said:

    Thanks. I wanted advice how to cook these recipes today, since I usually make adobo. I read because I see why afritada and menudo are so alike. My recipe today has this result – the meat of mechado and the raisins / flavor of menudo. I shared this page on Facebook so my Filipino friends can advise me and discuss it.

  • andi said:

    excellent entry! pity about the somewhat patronizing air (“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”) but that’s you exercising your artistic freedom there. myself i’m not a huge fan of “cocidos” so i’ve just never bothered to wonder, but it’s always good to know more about our “native” cuisine.

    i do agree, again on a purely personal note, with your observation on pinoy so-called foodie blogs that are really not worth their salt, bad pun intended. more of these entries please!

  • myfilipinokitchen » Blog Archive » 2011, a review of the year that was of Filipino Food part 1 said:

    [...] January, I finished writing about Filipino-Spanish stews. Click on this link to see where it all started 2 years ago. I can’t forget the thing because whenever we find ourselves in a conversation about this [...]

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    why thank you Andi. I have the power of artistic freedom. and good thing too there are only a few limits when it comes to art.

    will do more entries. if what happened to me last year won’t happen this time.

    Cheers Andi!

  • seigfredtristan (author) said:

    And there was Ziggy explaining to Charisse the differences of Filipino stews…. so Charisse gave her a thousand bucks…

    …i’m waitiiiiiing

  • ed lozaa said:

    There is also another dish similar to these but it is hot (spicy, if you may)and I think it is unique to some parts os the Philippines. It is called Asocena.

  • Bam said:

    Thank heavens for this blog! I, myself, have been wondering what’s the actual difference between these four but there’s nobody who can give me a proper answer.

    That’s Greatest Mysteries of My Life #162 solved. Thanks :D

  • Robert said:

    I’m a retired American living in the Philippines who enjoys cooking and learning about Pilipino cuisine. I was a little confused about this point since here we sometimes cook pork and call it either afritada or mechado but your explanation is very clear about the larding of the beef. Also my wife is Cebuana and likes me to add peanut butter to our kalderata as you mentioned. I’m very glad to come across this blog. Salamat,po! I’m off to the kitchen to make some afritadang baboy na.

  • Eron said:

    Thank you very much for this informative blog! But it’s too late when I read it, I already cooked “menafrichereta”, (if you know what I mean), but it tasted good though, worth a try hehe… ^_^

  • vinci said:

    kaldereta from the Spanish word “caldera” means cauldron. thats why i think its still better to call it beef kaldereta even if it is originally a goat stew. my point is why do we have sinigang na baboy, baka, isda etc? would that be wrong? i mean if we trace the first meat that was ever done in sinigang then thats the right sinigang? and if we follow the logic of bakareta for beef and kaldereta for goat then the caldera meaning is baseless.

  • Raissa Guldam said:

    Like this blog!.:) I used to wonder about their differences. Thanks to the author!

  • Eleyn said:

    I am an American born 41 year old Filipina whose nanay refused to teach me how to cook my favorite comfort foods growing up. Her reason is that if I want to eat Filipino food, I will have to come and visit her! Well, sadly due to transportation issues, I have not been able to visit my mom at freewill. I have been given no other choice but to search the Internet for recipes! This article has been so very informative and helpful! Thank you so much for posting this about 3 years ago!

  • dee.dee said:

    Thanks for this site!
    Now I already know the difference of afritada and mechado!
    Kudos to the author :D

  • Pia said:

    Thank you for your passion for this subject. Where does callos come in here?

    I recently realized that I like fabadas. Is this technically a cocido? Are fabadas part of Filipino cuisine as well — did it ever become popular enough in the islands to be considered ‘Philippine’.

    Thank you. I look forward to reading more posts.

  • Pia said:

    oh, another thing. You know it would be interesting to compare our versions of spanish-type dishes with those of South America. Menudo in Mexico is not quite the way we make it. And what they call champorado is especially different from ours. The south americans pretty much use all the same names for dishes but make them differently. I know this will require lots of research — but there’s another track for you.

    Thanks again. Wonderful discussing these things.

  • rod said:

    Out of nowhere it came out to my sister’s idea that she will be cooking menudo for an typical Saturday lunch. Surprisingly, I got interested how it differs from mechado which leads to an argument.To verify one’s point of view, Dr. google pop out your blog and voila!, how informative and interesting we’ve got from you! The vivid clarifications made us appreciate one recipe from the other and lucky to find this! Thank you and more power! Keep it up man!

    now i can’t wait to have our lunch! :) next week, i hope she’ll try kaldereta!

  • JP said:

    enlightened. great read. now to find some baka-reta

  • Tristan said:

    Wow, it’s great to come across this distinction among the 4 dishes. You have answered something that I’ve wondered about recently, indeed, about how these dishes differ. You kinda know they ought to be different, but you can’t put a finger to it. It makes for a better world when you know where one dish ends and another begins, hehe. Thanks for coming up with this.

  • Dehgee said:

    What about pochero? And callos? They’re also stews that make use of tomato sauce/paste…..

  • maui said:

    We’re just arguing here of the difference between mechado and afritada. thanks for this!

  • Lordy said:

    Since you’re pushing for awareness on Filipino cooking, what sources (books, researches, etc?) made you aware of the distinctions between the dishes you enumerated and the traditions that go, with them? Just wondering, really. You seem so certain in saying Filipino caldereta should be this, and Filipino menudo should be that.

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