Bistek tagalog are thinly sliced beef cooked in a flavorful and citrusy sauce made of soy sauce and calamansi then topped with lots of fresh onion rings. This is a unique Filipino recipe that you will absolutely love!
You only need 5 ingredients to make Bistek tagalog. These are:
- Soy sauce - use Filipino soy sauce or regular soy sauce.
- Calamansi juice - also known as Philippine lime. You can buy this in most Filipino stores in the U.S. or buy bottled extracted juice available online.
- Fresh garlic - you can also use garlic powder.
- Tender Beef cuts - more on this later.
- Onion - one of the most important ingredients of bistek tagalog is onion.
Best Beef Cut
The best part of beef for bistek is sirloin. It's tender and affordable compared to other prime cuts. If you're feeling generous, you can use other premium cuts such as rib-eye, tenderloin, and top sirloin.
Other budget-friendly yet tender beef cuts you can use are skirt steaks, flank steaks, and flat iron steaks.
How to Make the Best Bistek Tagalog
This bistek tagalog recipe is simple but, I promise it makes the best sauce and tender beef.
Here's how I do it:
Slice the Beef and Marinate
- Slice the beef thinly - this will allow the meat to easily absorb the flavors of the marinade and also will make it easier to cook.
- To tenderize the beef for bistek - pound it with a meat mallet. This will break down the muscle fibers and will make them tender. Use just enough pressure, not too hard. Do this on both sides of the meat.
- Marinate for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight - the longer the beef slices are marinated the better the flavor of your bistek.
A few tips:
- Sear the beef slices in hot oil over high heat until brown and charred - see those charred bits and pieces of fried beef and marinade? That's the key to making your bistek tagalog sauce delicious!
- Add more calamansi juice - just before the dish finishes cooking. This is the secret to getting the unique bistek taste with fresh calamansi essence.
- Cook the onions crisp and slightly raw - to achieve the best and most authentic flavor of bistek. To do this, add the raw onions to the pan a minute before the dish finishes cooking. Simmer for less than a minute then remove from heat. The residual heat will finish cooking the onions retaining their flavor and texture.
Bistek Tagalog: Frequently Asked Questions
Other ways to Tenderize the Beef
Here's are other ways to achieve tender beef for Bistek Tagalog if you prefer to skip using the meat mallet:
- Marinate overnight - the acid of calamansi will tenderize the thin slices of beef if marinated longer.
- Simmer in the sauce until tender - this will roughly take 30 mins to 45 mins depending on how tough the beef is. Add water as needed.
- Use baking soda - baking soda helps tenderize the beef by alkalizing its surface, making it harder for the proteins to bond and thereby keeping the meat tenderer when cooked. Here's what to do:
- Rub beef in baking soda
- Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Rinse the meat thoroughly to remove the baking soda.
- Pour the marinade ingredients and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
What is a good substitute for calamansi?
A good substitute for calamansi juice is lemon juice. This recipe has not been tested with lime.
How to thicken the sauce
To achieve a thick and rich bistek sauce, add a cornstarch slurry which is a combination of cornstarch and water. Pour it onto the pan a few minutes before the bistek finishes cooking. Drizzle with cooking oil for that extra glistening fat. Delicious!
Leftovers can last in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days stored in an air-tight container. To further extend the shelf life, freeze in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bags. Thaw before reheating on the stove or microwave.
More beef recipes...
Bistek Tagalog (Filipino Beef Steak)
- 500 grams tender beef, thinly sliced (see note 1)
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 medium red onion (sliced into rings, divided)
- 1 medium yellow onion (sliced into rings, divided)
- ¾ cup water (add more if preferred.)
- 2 medium potatoes
- Pound each slice of beef with a mallet to tenderize. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- In a bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Mix well then add it to the slices of beef. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Remove the beef from the marinade including the garlic bits. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to smoke, add the beef. Sear each side until brown crust forms. Do this in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Stir-fry half of the red and yellow onions. Add the marinade and water. Let it simmer for 2 minutes. Add back beef including all the juices. Toss to coat the beef with the sauce. Do a taste test. Add more calamansi and soy sauce if preferred. Season with black pepper.
- Add the remaining onion on top. Cook for a minute or less. I like mine crunchy and a little raw.
- Remove from heat. Serve and enjoy with a warm cup of rice.
Potato (optional) - do this while the beef is marinating
- Peel the potatoes and cut into ¼" rounds.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until half tender. Drain and discard water.2 medium potatoes
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Fry the potatoes until the outer layer is crisp and slightly brown.
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Beef cuts recommended - sirloin, rib-eye, tenderloin, and top sirloin. Other budget-friendly beef cuts you can use are skirt steaks, flank steaks, and flat iron steaks. Pound with a mallet to tenderize before cooking.
- Soy sauce - use Filipino soy sauce. If not available use regular soy sauce like Kikkoman, add 1 to 2 tablespoon more as needed.
- Sear the meat in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. This will help retain the heat of the pan, making the caramelization easier.
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