Bistek or Bistek Tagalog is a Filipino version beef steak marinated in soy sauce and kalamansi juice. Try this savory and flavor-rich dish now.
When I was a kid, I thought that ‘Bistek” is a Filipino way of tagalizing the English word “beefsteak”. I used to think that it is of American influence. Our way of reproducing a beef steak dish they taught during their time in the Philippines.
If I haven’t been into food blogging and learning some food history in the process, I would go on believing that, probably, until I die.
Then I came across ‘Bistec encebollado’ which is a Spanish dish that looks identical to our Bistek.
Well, with our colorful history, it is sometimes difficult to trace which one from our many colonizers ( Spanish, American or Japanese) or neighboring countries influenced a certain dish if they have been at all.
So after I learned about the other Bistec recipes that are also found in other former Spanish colonies. I guess it is safe to say that our Bistek Tagalog is actually of Spanish influence. The name, apparently, they loaned from the English “beefsteak”.
What meat is used for Bistek?
Although it is made with beef originally, nowadays, other meats are also commonly used.
The words more or less now refer to any dish that is prepared and cooked in the same way.
You can use pork, chicken, and fish (Tilapia or milkfish). Even eggplants can be cooked in this way.
How to make Filipino Bistek?
Thin slices of beef are marinated in soy sauce and kalamansi (or lemon) juice. They have then pan-fried afterward.
The soy marinade is then cooked to make the sauce and added after the meat is fried. Lots of sauteed and sometimes fresh onions are added as a topping.
Others have a different way of making preparing this dish but this is how I learned it from my Mama. And she also gave me her secret in marinating the meat to make it more flavorful.
She adds chopped onions to the marinade and believe me, it makes a lot of difference.
Tender, juicier meat
If you want a tender and juicy beef, start with good quality beef. But this is sometimes tricky to know. Even when they are labeled as Sirloin, you may still end up with not so tender meat.
One way to tenderize meat is by pounding. Pounding is usually done to soften or tenderize the muscle and make it easier to cut and eat. It also gives the meat a more uniform or even thickness. This makes the meat cook more evenly, avoiding raw on one side and overcooked on the other.
If you do not have a meat mallet, you may use anything that is heavy with a flat surface such as a rolling pin, a smaller skillet or saucepan or empty glass bottle.
Another thing to note is that leaner meat usually needs to be cooked at a higher heat in a short time. Overcooking makes it tough.
- Place the beef slices in a bowl or container with lid. Add soy sauce, kalamansi or lemon juice, and chopped onions. Mix well with your hands. Cover and let it marinate for at least an hour or overnight for better flavor absorption.
- Squeeze the meat with your hands to remove excess marinade from the meat. Transfer meat into a plate. Set the marinade aside for later use.
- Dissolve cornstarch in half cup of water. Set aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion rings and cook according to preference. Just until slightly tender or totally caramelized. Remove from oil and set aside.
- On the same pan, add the beef and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer cooked beef slices on a serving plate. Top with cooked onions.
- Still on the same pan over low heat, pour the soy sauce marinade. Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a simmer while stirring constantly. Cook until sauce becomes thicker.
- Pour the sauce over the beef and onions. Serve.
- Pound your meat. A sure way to have tender meat is to pound them before marinating and cooking.
- Chopped onions. For a flavor-rich sauce, add chopped onions to the marinade.
- Do not overcook. When using sirloin or even tenderloin, cook it quickly at high temperature. Overcook it and it will become chewy.
- Fresh Onions. You may also skip cooking the onion rings and serve the dish with fresh onions instead. The crunchiness and sweetness will add more texture and flavor to the dish.
- If you need more sauce, add another 1/4 cup of soy sauce and half cup water to the simmering marinade in step 6.
- Do not add the seeds from the calamansi or lemon to the marinade. They tend to give a bitter taste.