What’s The Difference: Bistek vs. Beef Gyudon

These beef dishes are delicious!

IMAGE David Hanson/Shutterstock
ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

Do you love tasting that calamansi flavor that complements the salty taste of soy sauce and the umami flavors of the beef? Perhaps you love the touch of sweetness from the softened onions on top? 

This classic Filipino dish is called bistek Tagalog. It's a super beefy dish that is quite possibly just as popular as adobo when it comes to deliciousness and how easy it is to make. It's commonly made with beef and just like adobo, it can be made with pork, chicken, or even other cuts of meat and alternatives. 

Did you know that the Japanese have a similar dish? You might know it: gyudon. 

Both dishes are made with tender beef. Both also have soy sauce as one of their main seasonings as well as onions. Both dishes may even look the same when piled on top of rice bu that's where the similarities stop. 

While both beef recipes are delicious and can look similar, this is how the Filipino bistek and the Japanese gyudon are different.  

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1 Bistek uses thicker cuts. Gyudon uses thinner cuts of beef.  

Both dishes are made with beef, usually sirloin, but the biggest difference is the cut. The beef for bistek is commonly thicker, chunkier than the beef you'll find in gyudon. This is why you will see many recipes that require the beef in bistek to be marinated before cooking. This is not just for the flavor but also for the tenderizing properties of the acid in calamansi juice. 

For gyudon, the beef is commonly thinly sliced. You can use sukiyaki cut or bacon-thin slices of beef if you want to imitate the thin meat slivers that are used for this Japanese beef recipe. 

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This difference in beef cuts also means that there is a difference in cooking time. 

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Bistek is cooked until the beef is tender. Gyudon is cooked ala stir fry.

Since the beef for the bistek is usually thicker, this dish needs to simmer to tenderize the beef. This can mean as few as 30 minutes or can take longer, up to 1 hour or more depending on the amount and the thickness of the beef. 

The beef for gyudon meanwhile is closer to bacon in terms of thickness of the beef slices, so these cook super quickly. This means the cooking time can be short, in minutes really if the ingredients are all prepared and the wok is heated right. 

3 Bistek is topped with onion rings. Gyudon uses chopped onions. 

One of the most distinctive ingredients in the Pinoy bistek has to be the onions. The onions are not just a garnish but it's a flavor, too. It's cooked with the beef For those who like to serve food that are appetizing to the eye too, onion rings are lightly sauteed then reserved specifically for the topping. 

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The gyudon meanwhile has onions too but it doesn't play a starring role in the dish. It's the sauce that makes the Japanese beef dish so addictive!  

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno

4 Bistek sauce has calamansi. Gyudon has mirin and dashi. 

Another big difference between these two beef dishes is the sauce. The bistek has a salty, tangy flavor to its sauce that is courtesy of the soy sauce and the calamansi juice. The calamansi juice is quite important since it's the other main flavoring ingredient. 

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Gyudon meanwhile is similar to bistek with its soy sauce-based sauce but it's not a citrus juice that makes it taste different. Gyudon uses Japanese ingredients mirin and dashi to not only give this dish a different taste but a sweetness, too. Mirin is a sweet rice wine while dashi is a soup base that is commonly used in many Japanese recipes. 

So, are you Team Bistek or Team Gyudon? 

***

Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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