Bistek = beef steak. I guess it’s a play on words. But when you say bistek or beef steak in the Philippines, it refers more to the dish than the cut of meat. Sometimes the dish is also called bistek Tagalog—I don’t know why, as I’m quite certain this dish is not only being cooked in the Tagalog region but also in the Visayas region.
Now this is a dish bursting with flavour, but with only a few and simple cupboard ingredients to add. Just imagine the taste of citrus and soy sauce, onions and black pepper in your succulent steak! There is a caveat however. I use a soy sauce which you will not find in the big supermarket shelves, but one you will definitely find in your nearest Asian store. The difference? The taste. It’s got 20-27% soya ingredients. The expensive brand you’ll find in the supermarket chains only has 9% in it (the cheaper ones only have 3%), and with so many additives they don’t sound like food ingredients to me. And I’m afraid to say that they do not ‘do the job’ with most Philippine soy sauce-based dishes 😦
(How to find the mysterious soy sauce—I am not endorsing so I’ll just give you a clue. There are two I could recommend: the first one has got a pineapple logo on it [it’s my first choice]; the second one has got a swan logo [and there’s a third one which I will not recommend as it has got MSG and a lower soya content, although it still tastes better than the ones from the supermarket—the logo is a tribal chief]. They’re both made in the Philippines [or ‘for the Philippine market’] . They come in 1-litre bottles—and cheaper than the 250ml expensive brand from the supermarket.)
oil for frying
2-3 cuts of beef steak (cut into 2-inch small pieces or strips)
1 large red onion or more (cut into rings)
ground black pepper (to taste, but plenty is great in this dish!)
½ lemon or 3 calamansi
½ cup soy sauce (with 20-27% soya content)
1. Marinate the steak in the soy sauce, onion, ground pepper and lemon juice (save some onion slices for garnishing at the end if you wish). Leave for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
2. Heat oil for frying. Fish out the beef from the marinade and fry until browned.
3. Push the beef to one side of the skillet and fry the onions.
4. Add the marinade. Cover and allow to boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes (depends how tender you like your beef). If the dish is drying, you can splash some water in.
5. If you’ve saved some onions for garnishing, you can throw them in the skillet (don’t mix) 2 minutes before you turn off the stove.
6. Best served with plain rice.