Everything You Need To Know About Making Delicious Bistek

IMAGE Miguel Nacianceno

The tangy, savory flavors with a little bite you taste when you put soy sauce, calamansi, and a little onion together may be the usual pairing you might find as a condiment on the side of your main dish, but this combination is also quite delicious when made into a marinade. 

You know anything that's been marinated with these three ingredients in it will be super flavorful, but the bistek Tagalog recipe has taken this and owned it. These are the main ingredients of the sauce! Despite this, you can make it better or at least, make it taste the way you might like it to taste better. It's a simple matter of math and a little ingenuity.  

Here's how you can make a bistek Tagalog recipe that's as perfect as it can get: 

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno

1 Note down your preferred measurement ratio.

Here's what fantastic about the bistek Tagalog recipe: you are in command of how much soy sauce, calamansi, and onions are in your dish. The amount used in the recipe may be perfect but what if you love your bistek Tagalog with more tang than salinity? If you love onions, you may want more  of this flavor to shine through the powerful flavors of the dark soy sauce and citrus flavors of the calamansi.  

Home cooking at its best is when you can tweak the recipe as you like it, not as it's written. For this easy recipe, you can actually taste your mixture before adding it to the beef. Here's what you do: 

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  1. 1. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and calamansi juice together as stated in the recipe. 
  2. 2. Taste it.
  3. 3. Add more soy sauce or citrus juice as desired. 
  4. 4. Taste it again. 
  5. 5. Add more soy sauce. Add more calamansi juice. 
  6. 6. Repeat until you have the perfect balance of flavor that you like.   
  7. 7. Take note of how much of each ingredient you added to make it taste perfect.

Use this ratio the next time you make bistek for a perfectly delicious meal that's to your taste.  

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno

2 You don't have to marinate your beef. 

Many recipes require you to marinate your beef. Marinating is a great way to tenderize and flavor your beef. However, if you're short on time, you don't have to do it. In fact, the quickest way to get flavor into your meat is by simmering it in the flavorful sauce that you just made. 


The tweak you will have to do is add enough water to simmer it until the beef is fork-tender. Once it's tender enough according to your preference, you can continue simmering the beef and the sauce a little while longer, just until the sauce is reduced enough that it's once again a flavorful sauce, not a soupy one. 

Photo by Riell Santos

3 Swap out the meat.

We bet you know this already but it's good to repeat: swap out your meat for another ingredient or even another kind of cut or different meat for a different yet still delicious take on this classic Filipino recipe. You can use the beef tenderloin instead of the sirloin, use pork chops or chicken pieces, or go vegetarian and use fish or tofu as your main. 

Any of these are delicious and make for a great meat substitute. 


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