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Bistek Tagalog

March 13, 2010

After a couple weeks in the Swiss countryside, I flew to London to catch up with some old friends – one of whom I haven’t seen in over 15 years!?! It was a good six days of eating, drinking, reminiscing and just plain happy days. I was missing my boyfriend already after only a couple days (oh, who am I kidding… after about five minutes), but I had a great time nonetheless. From delicious, inexpensive and generously portioned Japanese in Camden (Hi Sushi Salsa – 28 Jamestown Road) to the largest yorkshire pudding I’ve ever seen (Sidcup Place – click here if you’re curious), I left London with a full belly and my feet dragging. After 21 or so hours of flight time, I was back in my childhood home of Manila.

If you’ve ever been to the Philippines and not bothered to try out the local fare, you’ve missed out. Filipino food is quite different to the food found in other Asian countries; there’s a distinct lack of chilli and the predominant flavour profiles are sweet, salty and sour. The flavours are bold with a heavy blend of Hispanic, Malaysian, American and Chinese influences. Subtlety is not amongst the traits Filipinos are known for and their cooking is just as blunt.

Common ingredients are calamansi (a small, delectable lime-like fruit), soya sauce, white vinegar, garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce/ketchup, coconut, fish sauce, fish/shrimp paste (bagoong), rice and root vegetables (such as yam, taro, cassava and sweet potato). In regards to protein: beef, chicken, pork and various seafood are all popular and everything – snout to tail, skin to blood – is used. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is an obvious penchant for pork and all things fried and deep-fried and it’s easy to get carried away in the food-loving culture of this amazing archipelago. If you’re not aching for a cholesterol-induced mini-stroke, however, there are a plethora of delicious dishes to sample that aren’t deep-fried or triple-fried.

Tonight’s dinner, for example, was Bistek Tagalog; a dish that features pan-fried thin slices of beef steak in a garlic and soya sauce based marinade with lightly caramelised onion rings. Yum.

BISTEK (beef steak) TAGALOG for 2


450g of beef tenderloin (butterflied; we want it on the thin side)

4 cloves of garlic (smashed)

2 brown onions, halved and roughly sliced

Soy sauce (dark; enough to just cover the beef)

4 T of calamansi juice (or lime if you can’t find calamansi)

Salt and cracked black pepper


1. Marinate the beef in all ingredients (except for the onions) overnight if possible, otherwise for a minimum of two hours.

2. Gently fry the onions – we want them soft and only slightly caramelised.

3. Remove the onions from the pan and add the beef steaks.

4. Seal both sides of the beef, then pour in the marinade. Bring it to the boil and add the onions back in.

5. Give it a minute or so and you’re ready to go!

* Sorry about the lack of photos, the bistek mysteriously disappeared off the table before I could take any….

** UPDATE: for photos, have a look at this blog post. Didn’t forget to take photos this time!



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