I love all types of Filipino ulam - meats or vegetable dishes paired with steamy white rice. Bistek Tagalog or Filipino beefsteak is a marinated beef ulam that will make you feel like you are wrapped in a big, warm hug. Best of all, you don't need a lot of ingredients!
Update Disclosure: This post has been updated for one or more of the following reasons: easier reading, updated photos, clearer instructions, and just plain ol' improvements to the recipe (as noted).
Why the Name Bistek?
Bistek is a made-up Filipino word that came from an English word "beefsteak". Filipinos tend to make their own renditions of English words that become a part of the national language, Tagalog. It sounds roughly the same but spelled differently. But you get the point!
Ingredients for Bistek
Here is the short ingredient list:
- Sirloin Beef
- Soy Sauce
- Calamansi (or Lemon) Juice
- Optional: Sugar and Garlic
I chose not to include salt in this dish because soy sauce is salty enough. But I like adding a lot of minced garlic. Sugar is optional; you can add it if the sauce flavor is too strong.
I know that you don't have to eat white rice with bistek. But I strongly suggest you cook rice before making this dish. It completes it.
- Calamansi: You can use lemons instead of calamansi for this recipe. Another alternative are limes.
- Onions: I've seen bistek made with red, yellow, and white onions. Use whatever you have available in your kitchen! Make it a few times to decide what you like to use.
Tips for This Recipe
- Watch the Salt: I chose not to include salt in this dish because soy sauce is salty enough. Check the salt levels of your soy sauce to make sure it's the taste you like.
- Marinade Overnight: You probably already know this, but marinating the meat overnight will create a deeper flavor for this dish.
- Sirloin Slicing: If you are unable to get pre-sliced sirloin steak at the store, you can cut them at home with a simple hack. Semi-freeze the beef by placing it in the freezer for no longer than twenty minutes. Make thin slices by stroking a sharpened knife along the partially frozen steak in one direction. Make slices across the grain, so you wind up with shorter pieces of meat.
- Making and Using Slurry: You will add cornstarch slurry along with the reserve marinade to the pan after you cook and remove the beef. Once it thickens, you have two options:
- Add the beef pieces and onions back into the saucepan and mix everything together before putting the finished product on a plate.
- Cook the sauce to your liking and then pour it onto the beef on the plate, and finally top with onions.
- Make it Your Own: The beautiful thing about Filipino food is that every dish is different! Experiment with additional ingredients to make this *your* dish. Here are some suggestions:
- Add some minced garlic or chopped herbs
- Add different seasonings such as sugar and fish sauce
How to Make Bistek
Here is the preview to the recipe steps:
- Marinate sliced beef with soy sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper.
- Slice onions and mince garlic (if using garlic).
- Heat some oil in a pan.
- Toss in onion rings and cook until soft and translucent.
- Fry the beef pieces separately from the onions.
- Cook the garlic and make the gravy sauce with reserve marinade.
How to Serve
This dish should be served immediately on a bed of hot white rice. I like placing the rice in the middle of my plate. Then I spoon the bistek Tagalog and its sauce alllll over the top of the rice. The rice tastes so good when it soaks up the gravy!
Bistek (Filipino Beefsteak) Recipe
- 120 ml soy sauce preferably Silver Swan brand
- 60 ml lemon juice or calamansi juice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 500 grams thinly sliced sirloin (~ 1 pound)
- 2 white or yellow onions, sliced into rings
- 4 cloves garlic, minced optional
- 200 grams water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch more if you want a thicker sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar optional for a sweeter flavor
- In a bowl, add soy sauce, black pepper, lemon juice, and thinly sliced beef. Marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
Cook the Beef and Sauce
- Add oil to a pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and lightly brown. Add a bit of water to help soften onions. Remove onions and set aside.
- Separate the beef from the marinade. Set the marinade aside. Add the beef to the pan and cook each side for 1-2 minutes.
- Add minced garlic to the pan and cook until soft and glassy. Pour in marinade and let it simmer on low heat. Add sugar if the taste is too strong.
- Make cornstarch slurry by adding water and cornstarch. Stir until lumps have disappeared. Add to the pan with sauce.
- Simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Option 1: Add the beef and onions back into the saucepan with the sauce and mix.Option 2: Pour the gravy over beef on a serving plate and top with cooked onions.
- Serve with steamed white rice.
Have You Tried This Recipe?
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