Afritada, Mechado, and Kaldereta have been around for ages, present in every Filipino fiestas. These dishes might be confusing but the trick in distinguishing which is which, is to know their main ingredients!

Chicken for Afritada, beef for Mechado, and goat meat for Kaldereta. But since Filipinos tend to be very innovative, they experiment in substituting one meat for the other. What you can do is check its sauce since each dish has a different texture, taste, and smell! 

Celebrations have been a part of Filipino Culture. There is no other race that loves to prepare a feast more than the Filipinos. Oh, you graduated? Prepare a feast. Promotion? Prepare a feast. Your pet’s birthday? FEAST! Filipinos celebrate literally everything, not to count the endless festivals from different regions and islands. And when it comes to Filipino “fiestas”, these three mysterious dishes are always present; the Afritada, Mechado, and Kaldereta. These dishes might look confusing since they look kinda the same and have taste similarities, too. For an in-depth understanding, let me take you for a walk-through.

What is Afritada?

 By Lalaine Manalo

From the Spanish word fritada which means to fry, an exemplary tomato puree-based dish acquired from the Spanish colonial era.  Afritada mainly uses chicken meat. Its method requires braising the meat with vegetables, herbs, and spices before pouring in the tomato sauce. Other ingredients utilized in this dish are bell pepper, potato, and carrot. Evaporated milk and pineapple chunks or slices are also included to add more pleasantness. If tomato sauce is not available, Filipinos use Banana Ketchup as an alternative.

What is Mechado?

By Lutong Bahay Recipe

Mechado is also a dish that originated under Spanish Influence. From the Spanish word mecha which means wick, this thick delicious beef stew larded with pork fat that looks like candle wicks which is the exact English interpretation of Mechado; "wickful" or "brimming with 'wick'" – which it is.

It is a dish that requires the larding method. Infusing pork fat into the meat by utilizing a larding instrument, larding is a technique used to add fat to extremely lean or potentially hard bits of meat. The additional fat moistens, upgrades the flavors, and softens meat as it cooks. Regularly, a segment of fat is cut from bacon or pork and chilled to solidify the substance.

The meat that was larded will be simmered within the tomato sauce along with additional ingredients; potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and peas. Soy sauce, vinegar, and oil are also essential seasonings.

What is Kaldereta?

By Peanut Butter & Co.

Named after the stock pot it is cooked in, Kaldereta got its name from the Spanish word caldero which translates to cauldron. It was said that during the Spanish Colonization Era, they mostly used seafood but they utilized goat meat as an alternative.

Goat meat according to some individuals tastes like sheep. Goat meat is additionally a better alternative since its fat substance can be half lower compared to lamb and beef and it actually has the most minimal cholesterol in contrast with other meat. Aside from the meat, the main distinction of Kaldereta is the mashed liver. Aside from the basic seasonings and spices, other vegetables like potatoes, carrots, peas, bell peppers, and sometimes cheese are added into the stew.

Differences Between Afritada, Mechado and Kaldereta

Subsequent to acquiring the basic information of each dish, we will now do the compare and contrast and dig deeper to the difference between Afritada and Kaldereta, the difference between Kaldereta and Mechado and so on.

  • Afritada mainly uses chicken as its main ingredient and its sauce is not so thick compared to the other two dishes. It is also added with evaporated milk and pineapple slices.
  • Mechado uses beef stew and requires the larding method. Its essential seasonings are soy sauce vinegar and oil.
  • Kaldereta on the other hand uses goat meat and is added with liver mash.

Comparison Chart: Differences Between Afritada, Mechado and Kaldereta

 AfritadaMechadoKaldereta
MeatChickenBeef, Pork fatGoat
SauceTomato sauce or banana ketchup and evaporated milkTomato sauce or banana ketchup, Soy sauce, vinegar and oilTomato sauce or banana ketchup and mashed liver
VeggiesOnion, Garlic, Carrots, Potatoes, Green Peas, Bell pepperOnion, Garlic, Carrots, Potatoes, Bell pepper,Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Potatoes, Green Peas, Bell pepper
AdditionalPineapple Cheese

Similarities Between Afritada, Mechado and Kaldereta

These dishes may have differences but this time, let’s talk about their similarities.

Afritada, Mechado and Kaldereta originated from the Spaniards. With their names inspired by different Spanish words, most of their methods were also adapted. In the 120 years of Spanish colonization, Spaniards have brought and influenced a lot of things in the Philippines including delicacies.

All of these dishes mostly use the same vegetables; onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, and bell pepper. But the most common thing about these three dishes is that they are all tomato puree based but in case the tomato sauce is nowhere to be found; Filipinos use banana ketchup. It has a similar sweet and sour taste that makes it a perfect alternative for tomato sauce.

However, there is a secret that you really need to know about this dish. Each dish alone is indeed delicious but there is a special partner for these dishes. In fact, it is a special partner for every Filipino viand. For the Filipinos, without this, a meal is not considered a meal. What I am talking about is hot steamed plain rice! This soft and fluffy rice with its chewy texture would bring out the best of these dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

🕰 At what time of day can these dishes be eaten?

Whenever you feel like it! Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s available of course.

🔀 Can you substitute one meat for the other?

Yes! You can even add your own ingredients and make your own version. But not the sauces. The sauces’ ingredients should stick to the original.

➕ What can be added to improve these dishes?

Usually, cheese is only added in Kaldereta but it can be used for the other dishes, too. Filipinos sometimes also add hotdogs and sausages.

Wrapping Up

That’s about it! To summarize, these dishes are all tomato puree-based dishes that originated from the Spanish Colonial Era. Afritada is a dish that uses chicken with a sauce that is not too thick compared to Mechado and Kaldereta. Mechado is a beef stew larded with pork fat that considers soy sauce, vinegar, and oil as essential seasoning. Kaldereta is a goat meat stew that uses mashed liver. That’s all the information you need to know in order to distinguish which is which. There might be times that Filipinos tend to experiment and substitute one meat for the other but to be honest, if you are like me, as long as it is food and as long as it is safe to eat, I’ll just eat it anyway! Nevertheless, always remember that these dishes might be mouth-watering, make sure that everything is good but in moderation and too much of anything is a bad thing. Happy eating! Or as Filipinos say it, Kainan na!

Sources

  • Chicken Afritada. (2021, January 31). My Filipino Recipes
  • Mechado. (n.d.). Tasteatlas
  • Villar, R. (2019, December 30).The Convoluted Histories of Mechado, Afritada, Menudo, and Kaldereta. Esquiremag