The Happy Home Cook: Two Bistek Recipes

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Bistek Tagalog

Beef Steak with Onions
From Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, 2nd edition.

Bistek Tagalog

Bistek Tagalog

This sounds like pidgin for “beef steak”; in fact, it is nothing more than the Filipino spelling of the Spanish word “bistec,” similar to the Italian “bistecca” which preceded it as adaptations from English. Bistek Tagalog is one of the favorite Filipino ways to cook beef, combining two flavors that Filipinos love – salty soy sauce and sour calamansi juice.


Serves 4
500 g beef tenderloin (lomo) or sirloin (tagiliran)
3 or 240 g white onions
1 tsp or 3 g black peppercorns
1/2 cup or 120 ml soy sauce
2 tbsp or 30 ml juice of calamansi, lemon or lime
3 tbsp or 45 ml oil
1 tbsp flour


  1. Cut beef into 8 x 5 x ½ cm or 3 x 2 x ¼-inch thick steaks.

  2. 2. Peel and cut the onions into ½-cm or ¼-inch thick rings.

  3. Crack the black peppercorns.

  4. 4. In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, pepper and calamansi juice.


  1. Heat pan and add oil.

  2. Saute onions until translucent. Set aside.

  3. Dust each piece of meat lightly with the flour.

  4. Sear each steak over high heat on both sides according to desired doneness. Set aside.

Just when ready to serve

  1. Heat the same pan. Return the meat and onions.

  2. Immediately pour the marinade. Bring to a boil and remove right away from the heat. Plate immediately and serve hot.

Serving Suggestion

Serve the beef in its sauce with the onion rings arranged on top.


One way to make this dish really delicious is to lessen the soy sauce by one tablespoon and replace with a tablespoon of salt.

The onion slices are a key element of this dish. White onions are best, as they are milder. Cook the onions just until they start to turn translucent to retain their crunch and release their sweetness.

The meat is sometimes marinated which could make it tough. Beef should be cooked in small portions in a hot pan to avoid releasing liquid which makes the meat tough.

The traditional cut for bistek is the tapa (cured beef) cut. The tapa cut is usually tough, non-prime meat, and requires pounding and long simmering. Even selections like top and bottom round, though less tough, might also be pounded with a wooden mallet with diamond teeth, or by having a butcher pass the meat through a meat tenderizer machine.

The choice cut for bistek is sirloin. For luxurious marbling, choose rib-eye.

Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, expanded 2nd edition. Michaela Fenix, ed. (Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc. 2013)

Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine

Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine

Vegan Bistek (Photo by Richgail Enriquez)

Vegan Bistek (Photo by Richgail Enriquez)

Bistek is a savory Filipino dish usually with beef, soy sauce, citrus, pepper, and onion. I veganized it by using portobello mushrooms, tofu, and potatoes. Bistek is similar to a Filipino Adobo, except Bistek has fewer seasoning. No fuss, just a simple, satisfying dish for any time of day.

My version has no meat and no animal products. It’s best enjoyed with a side of rice, but you may also eat it with bread, tortilla, pita bread. Whatever carbs or gluten-free option you prefer.


frying oil (I suggest mixture of Canola and Olive oil)
1/2 bowl of sliced potatoes (sliced like potato crisps)
8 pieces of portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bowl of onion rings (I’m describing how it should be sliced, and not referring to the fried appetizer!)
3-4 teaspoons of soy sauce (adjust to taste)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste (I suggest apply liberally)


  1. Add oil to skillet and fry the potatoes until crisp

  2.  Remove the potatoes and season them with salt and pepper and lemon

  3. Add the mushroom to the skillet, when tender, add salt, pepper and lemon to taste

  4. Add the onions

  5. When onions and mushrooms are tender, put back the potatoes

  6. Add the soy sauce

  7. Mix the ingredients until flavors blend , adjust the seasoning accordingly


*It’s better to season the potatoes and mushrooms separately before combining them so the flavors are more apparent.

More Pinoy Vegan recipes on