Beef shank soup

Beef shank soup


7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

Beef bulalo is my brother’s all-time favourite Filipino dish. To this day, he requests the soup before visits to my parents’ place. He piles steamed rice into a big bowl, slowly pours over the soup, then completes the ritual with a squirt of soy and kalamansi. Then, he savours every last bite as if it were his last.

Made with beef shin (shank), bulalo is named after the marrow found inside the shank. Slow cooking transforms the tough secondary cut into unctuous meat and develops the hearty broth, but can dissolve the soft marrow. A little preventative tip I picked up from renowned LJC Restaurants is to wrap the beef in foil as it cooks.


Quantity Ingredient
1.4kg beef shin, cut through the bone into 5 cm pieces
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 desiree or sebago potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 corn cobs, husks removed, each cut into 3 pieces, (optional)
1/2 white cabbage, core removed, cut into 6 wedges, then halved widthwise
2 bok choy, trimmed and halved
125ml fish sauce
3 spring onions, white part thinly sliced on the diagonal, green part thickly sliced on the diagonal
steamed rice, soy sauce and kalamansi or lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Wash the beef shin under cold running water, then wrap each piece tightly in foil. Place in a large, deep saucepan and pour in enough water to cover the beef by 5 cm. Bring to the boil over high heat, skimming any scum from the surface. Add the onion, cover, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 2–3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling off the bone (remove and unwrap and check using a fork; if not ready continue cooking).
  2. Add the potato and cook for 10 minutes, then add the corn, if using, and cabbage and cook for a further 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the bok choy and cook for 1 minute, or until wilted. Remove from the heat.
  3. Remove the beef from the soup, unwrap it, then return to the pan. Stir in the fish sauce and season with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Divide the soup among bowls, scatter with the spring onions and serve with steamed rice, soy sauce and kalamansi.

Where does it come from?

  • Bulalo is the most beefed up (pun intended) soup in its class. The dish is synonymous with Batangas province, a major producer of beef cattle, where the dish is believed to have originated. In Cebu, the same dish is known as pochero. A pared-back version with beef ribs or brisket, leafy greens, saba banana and potato, known as nilagang baka (literally ‘boiled beef ’) is the most common.
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