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 comforts me like a big, warm hug. You make this dish with few ingredients, yet it is flavorful and tasty. Usually, bistek is made with calamansi juice, a type of lemon and lime hybrid from the Philippines. It is tangy, salty, meaty, and plain old comforting. Traditionally, this recipe requires using calamansi juice, but if you don't have those, feel free to replace with lemons!
Why the Name Bistek?
The word bistek does not mean anything. It is a made-up Filipino word that came from an English word. Filipinos tend to make their own renditions of English words that become a part of the national language, Tagalog. The term for this type of code-switching is called Taglish. The English word 'beefsteak' has been code-switched to the Tagalog word bistek. It sounds roughly the same but spelled differently. They both refer to cooked steak!
Ingredients for Bistek
You do not need a lot of ingredients for this dish. Filipino beefsteak is made with sirloin pieces, onions, soy sauce, and lemon juice. In addition to those essential ingredients, you can add some seasonings such as garlic, salt, sugar, and pepper. I chose not to include salt in this dish because soy sauce is salty enough. But I like adding a lot of minced garlic to the flavors up a notch! Sugar is optional; you can add it if the sauce flavor is too strong.
I know white rice is not really an essential ingredient to make for this dish. But please make sure some steamed cooked rice is prepared before you panfry beefsteak!
Tip for Slicing Sirloin
If you are unable to get thinly sliced sirloin steak at a store, you can cut them at home. The trick is to semi-freeze the beef by placing it in the freezer for no longer than twenty minutes. Sharpen a knife in the meantime. The sharper your knife is, the easier it will be to slice.
Once the beef is slightly frozen, remove it from the freezer and place it on a chopping block.
Make thin slices by gently stroking the sharpened beef in one direction. Make slices across the grain, so you would end up with short pieces of meat.
How to Make Bistek
Add the thinly sliced beef, soy sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper to a bowl to marinate the meat. Mix the ingredients until the beef is thoroughly coated with the sauce. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight. I highly recommend you marinate the beef overnight. The meat will be more tender and flavorful.
Make a Marinade
Before you start cooking, prepare the marinated beef by removing it from the fridge to bring up its temperature. Remove the meat from the marinade and set the marinade aside.
Cook the Beef
Slice onions into rings and mince the garlic.
Heat a pan on medium heat and add some oil to the pan. Toss in the onion rings and cook while stirring every five minutes to avoid uneven browning on the onion rings.
Add a bit of water to help them soften. Once soft and lightly brown, remove the onions from the pan and set them aside.
Fry the bistek Tagalog in the same pan for about one to two minutes on each side. Place the cooked beef on a serving plate to set aside. As you cooked the beef pieces, the marinate may pool at the bottom of the pan. You can pour the marinate back into the bowl to clear the pan.
Next, add the minced garlic to the pan and saute until soft and glassy. Then pour in the marinade and bring the heat to a low simmer. Taste the sauce after a few minutes of simmering. If it tastes too strong, add the optional brown sugar and mix it into the sauce.
Meanwhile, make a slurry by adding water and cornstarch to a bowl, then mix until lumps have disappeared.
Make the Gravy Sauce
Add the cornstarch slurry to the simmering sauce and cook until it thickens.
Tip You can choose to add more cornstarch if you want a thicker gravy. But add it to the water slurry to avoid clumps in the saucepan.
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.
How to Serve Filipino Beefsteak
This dish should be served immediately next to 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 on top of the rice. The rice tastes so good when it soaks up the juices!
Have You Tried This Recipe?
Simply rate the recipe by clicking on the ⭐️s on the recipe card above. Have something to say? Please leave me a comment down below telling me what you think of this recipe.
Bonus: Let me and other readers know what you did to make this recipe your own - 💫 let's inspire each other!
Also, follow me on Instagram [@seesfoodwilltravel] and send me a DM with a picture of what you made. I would love to share and celebrate YOUR creation with our budding community 💞
Bistek (Filipino Beefsteak)
- 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
- 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 cooked 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 mixOption 2: Pour the gravy over beef on a serving plate and top with cooked onions
- Serve with steamed white rice.