Filipino Bistek Recipe (Bistek Tagalog)

If cuisines of other countries have their own versions of beef steaks, so is Philippines has its own version called Bistek Tagalog. Filipino Bistek Tagalog is made up of thin slices of beef cooked in soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, calamansi juice, and onion. American beef steaks like prime rib, filet mignon, rib eye, sirloin, and tenderloin steaks are big slabs of grilled beef. Beef steaks of Spanish-speaking countries, called Bistec, are made up with thin slices of beef cooked in variety of ways, depending which country and culture the dish is made from. Bistec de Palomilla of Cuba, Bistec a Caballo of Columbia, Bistec Ranchero of Mexico, and Bistec a Lo Pobre of Peruvia are just of few examples of this dish. Bistec, by the way, resembles our version of Bistek Tagalog.

Bistek is a dish that originated in the Philippines and was made by the folks of Tagalog regions. However, it was believed that the dish is Spanish by influence because almost all the countries Spain once colonized made a similar kind of dish. Spain must have taught the dish to their colonized nations. However, you may ask, why Bistek in the Philippines and not Bistec? Probably because there no letter "c" in Tagalog alphabet. Instead of letter "c", Tagalog alphabet uses "k".

A tender cut of beef like tenderloin, sirloin, or round (top or bottom) is recommended for cooking Bistek Tagalog. To further tenderize, pound the thin slices of beef with meat tenderizing mallet. Traditionally, the thin slices of beef, normally 1/4 inch thick, are marinated with soy sauce, garlic, ground pepper, salt, and calamansi juice before cooking. The marinade is an important factor in preparing the dish because the meat will absorb the flavor of the liquid. It is, therefore, important to balance the taste of the marinade in the beginning by simply tasting it. If it is too sour, add more soy sauce and if it is too salty, add more calamansi juice. Another important factor is the time frame of marinating. The correct way period to marinate the thin slices of beef is between 20-30 minutes because the calamansi juice which contains acid will chemically cook or denature the beef meat if you marinate it for too long, say more than an hour.

For variations, you can add tomato sauce just like the other Bistec recipes of foreign cuisines; you can top it with sunny side up or over easy eggs just like the Bistec a Caballo of Columbia; you can add chili peppers for a spicy version; you can mix sugar in the marinade for a sweet version; or you can add fried potatoes, why not?

Marinade also varies as others use salt and others don't. We included salt in our marinade because it helps to tenderize and moisturize the meat. Moreover, Spanish cuisine, often, uses salt in their marinade, giving way for the Bistek Tagalog dish to be more authentic and Spanish by influence.

Bistek Ingredients

  • 2 lbs beef steaks, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon calamansi (or lemon) juice
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 big onion; sliced in rings
  • 3 cloves of garlic; minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooking oil

Bistek Cooking Ingredients

  1. Marinate beef steak in calamansi juice, soy sauce, ground pepper, and salt for about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a skillet, fry onion rings until translucent. Remove onion from skillet and set aside.
  3. In same skillet, fry marinated beef steak over high heat turning upside down several times until brown and tender. Remove meat from skillet and set aside.
  4. Saute garlic and when brown, add the beef steak. Add onion rings and just enough marinade to create an oily sauce. Cover and simmer until done. Serve hot!