Filipino beefsteak

Filipino beefsteak

Bistek Tagalog

7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

Growing up, my mother and her seven siblings ate bistek Tagalog regularly for dinner. It was a speedy dish that satisfied the whole family, even the fussy ones — salty soy sauce and sour kalamansi is a combo loved by most Filipinos. The country’s native citrus is hard to come by overseas, but even with lemon as a substitute, this dish offers millions of Filipinos abroad the instant taste of home.

This take is inspired by the bistek of my mother’s youth, where no time was wasted marinating the meat. Some families used tougher, cheaper cuts that required a pounding and marinade to soften. The onion is purposely near raw and white, too; have faith, it comes together really well.


Quantity Ingredient
125ml soy sauce
80ml kalamansi or lemon juice
600g beef sirloin, cut into 1 cm thick steaks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, sliced into rings
steamed rice, to serve


  1. Place the soy sauce and citrus juice in a shallow non-reactive bowl and season with freshly cracked black pepper. Add the beef and turn to coat, then set aside.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add half of the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring until just soft but still crunchy and white. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Repeat with another 2 teaspoons of the oil and the remaining onion.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in the same pan and increase the heat to high. Drain half of the steaks, reserving the marinade, and cook for 1 minute on each side, or until just cooked. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil and steaks.
  4. Pour the marinade into the empty pan (be careful as it will steam up) and cook for 30 seconds, scraping up any bits stuck to the base of the pan — the sauce should be warmed through and slightly reduced. Remove from the heat.
  5. Top the steaks with some onion, then pour over the sauce. Serve with steamed rice.

Where does it come from?

  • The name bistek is derived from Spanish bistec, which in turn is the Hispanic form of English beefsteak. The word Tagalog, a major language in the Philippines and name of one of the largest ethnic groups, was likely tacked on to differentiate it from its Spanish forebear.
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