Bistek Tagalog

We have received some sad news this week.  A beloved uncle has passed away.  He was loved by every single life he touched.  And believe me, he has touched many.  His ability to love seemed too big for his own skin, so it spilled over and enveloped all those around him…and then some.  He lived life to the fullest, and didn’t hold back when it came to the people he cared about.  And it was in the littlest details where he touched people the most I think – a phone call to say hello, a visit to a niece’s volleyball game, a smile, a laugh, a printout of an interesting football article that he knew my husband would enjoy.

I’ve realized, listening to his friends and family, that it is truly in the littlest details that we too can touch other people’s lives the most. Thoughtfulness, kindness, caring...a little goes a long way.  So don't be afraid to be generous.

Just as he had a big appetite for life and love…he also had a big appetite for food.  So tito E, this one’s for you.

Bistek Tagalog
  • Olive oil
  • 250 grams sukiyaki cut beef or 350 grams tenderloin sliced 1/2 cm thick
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed calamansi juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed up a bit
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 large or 3 medium white onions, sliced
Optional (for a saucier bistek):
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed calamansi juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

- Marinate your beef in the 2 tablespoons calamansi juice, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, garlic, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.  Make sure the marinade is mixed well and evenly distributed around the beef. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat.  You want all your meat to fit in a single layer.  Add a couple of generous glugs of olive oil to the pan.
- Remove your meat from the marinade.  Save the marinade for later.
- When the oil is hot, add the beef to the pan, spreading so it cooks in a single layer.  If you don’t have a pan big enough, cook the beef in batches.  Fry quickly just until meat is almost done.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
- There may now be a bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Remove this and save for later.
- Add a couple more generous glugs of olive oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot add your onions.  Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Once the onions have reached this state of lethargy, add the reserved marinade along with the pan sauce you had set aside.  If you want more sauce then add the calamansi juice and soy sauce that I’ve marked as optional above.  Let this bubble up rapidly, tossing with the onions, to make sure the marinade cooks completely.  Sometimes I like to add another drizzle of olive oil at this point.
- Add the beef back in the pan, toss a few times, and then remove to a serving platter.  Serve with steaming white rice!
- Serves 2-3.

As there are, I am sure, as much versions of bistek tagalogas there are Filipinos cooking them, I believe some foot notes are in order on how we like to cook this in our home.  Bistek is personified by the unique balance of the soy-calamansi combination.  Over here, we like it on the tangy side and this recipe reflects that.  If you like is with less of a citrus kick then lessen the calamansi a notch.  We also like it with a bit more sauce (better to coat our rice with), which is why I’ve included an option for it here, although it is still good without it.  For the beef I like to buy sukiyaki cut because it’s nice and thin.  I get it from a purveyor at my weekend market that sells locally raised wagyu beef.  The nicely marbled slices make for a luxurious bistek experience.  I also use tenderloin sometimes, as indicated above.  Do not overcook your beef – you want it tender and yielding.  Olive oil is admittedly not a local flavor but I love my bistek with it, so in this instance I’ve given up authenticity for pleasure – I've no excuses so please don’t judge!  I like to cook my onions until very soft and almost burnished.  Others like to keep a little crunch in them.  So feel free to cook them as you like them.  I’m also very generous with the black pepper…crack that pepper mill like you’re working out (as if I would really know what that feels like).

We are leaving the city for the weekend.  Summer is here and making us all yearn for childhood vacations, while our adult self is stuck in front of a computer screen the whole week.  So we stuff our bags full of bathing suits and possibilities; pile ourselves, our spirits, and the Pack ‘N Play into our little red car; and head out to enjoy the sun whilst it shines, and each other most of all.  Life is short, pick up that phone, connect, snuggle in bed a bit longer, let somebody else answer the phone while you watch your sleeping child.  Love each other. 

We will miss you tito E.