Glossy, Saucy, and 6-Ingredients — This Bistek Is a Celebration of Sour

updated Feb 5, 2021
Bistek (Beef Marinated with Calamansi, Soy and Onions)

Boneless rib marinated with citrus and soy and served with caramelized onions.

Serves4

Prep35 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

In the Philippines, we love the taste of sour, and bistek is the ultimate celebration of that flavor profile. It’s beef marinated in calamansi juice (or citrus juice, if you can’t find calamansi), soy sauce, chopped garlic, thick sliced onions, and bay leaves. And it really packs a punch. As it cooks, the marinade and garlic simmer and thicken slightly, and the citrus, soy, and garlic sing brightly against the beef. It’s perfect drizzled on cooked rice.

Growing up, I always knew when bistek was on the menu. It’s traditionally made with a tougher cut like sirloin, so the beef is sliced and then pounded with a meat tenderizer until very thin. I would come home from school and Inay, my step-mother’s mother (Inay means mother in Tagalog), would be pounding away at the steak in preparation for dinner. The tenderized beef is then placed in the marinade, where it soaks up all the delicious citrus and soy. 

Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

For this recipe, I took a cue from cheesesteak and, instead of using tough sirloin, chose an already-tender cut: boneless short ribs, with no pounding necessary. I thinly slice the short ribs and combine it with the marinade. (If all you have is sirloin, simply slice it and then pound with the textured side of the mallet. You want the meat very thin, so be careful not to tear it.) You’ll want to marinate it for at least 30 minutes, but I think it’s best to prepare it the night before to let all those delicious flavors soak in. 

One of bistek’s signature details is the thick-sliced onion rounds. In fact, when talking to my mother about this recipe, she was adamant to me that it has to be onion rounds. When I was growing up, my family cooked the onions a little too raw for my palate, so for this recipe I cook them the way I prefer — a little more caramelized. If you prefer a less-cooked onion, cut the onion cook time in half.

Bistek (Beef Marinated with Calamansi, Soy and Onions)

Boneless rib marinated with citrus and soy and served with caramelized onions.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    boneless ribeye steak

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    tamari or soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup

    calamansi extract or juice (or 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, or 2 tablespoons orange juice)

  • 4

    bay leaves

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons

    canola oil, divided

  • Cooked rice, for serving

Instructions

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  1. Freeze 1 pound boneless ribeye steak until the steak is half frozen, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, thaw completely frozen steak at room temperature about 3 hours.) Meanwhile, peel 1 large yellow onion, then cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Place both in a large bowl.

  2. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup calamansi juice, 4 bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl. Thinly slice the steak across the grain into 1/8-inch thick slices. Add the steak to the bowl, toss to combine, and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

  3. Transfer the bay leaves and onions, keeping the rounds intact, to a plate. Fit a strainer over a medium bowl. Using tongs, transfer the meat to the strainer. Reserve the marinade.

  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bay leaves and onions, arranging the onions in a single layer (it will bubble and steam). Cook undisturbed until the bottoms of the onions are deep golden brown, 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Flip the onions and cook until the second side is deep golden brown and caramelized, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes more.

  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 3 tablespoons of the marinade. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and discard the bay leaves.

  6. Wipe any dark bits from the skillet. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil to the pan and heat on high until it begins to smoke. Add the steak and cook, stirring to break up the pieces, until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.

  7. Add the remaining marinade, along with the strained marinade, to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the marinade is thickened slightly, about 6 minutes. Add the onions to rewarm. Arrange the onions on top of the steak and drizzle with the sauce. Serve with rice.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Amelia Rampe’s Weeknight Filipinx Guide

This recipe is part of our weeknight Filipinx cooking guide, designed to bring the diverse cuisine of the Philippines into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Amelia, and check out all of the recipes below.

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Gising-Gising (Pork Simmered in Coconut Milk and Shrimp Paste)
Gising-gising, which literally translates to “wake-up wake-up,” is not a dish I grew up eating, but I wish I did! It’s packed with spice from chiles and deeply savory bagoong, so it definitely wakes up the senses. It’s part of a family of dishes called ginataan, which translates to food cooked in coconut milk.
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Shrimp and Fish Sinigang (Tamarind Stew)
Sinigang is a tamarind-based stew that really showcases the Flipinx love of sour. I love the broth so much, I always used to go back for seconds of more broth on rice. It’s a comforting feeling to this day.
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Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)
In my life, I’ve enjoyed adobo many ways. One of my favorites is adobo infused with coconut milk. There are coconuts all over the Philippines, and in this recipe coconut milk adds a luxurious texture to the broth.
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5 / 5
Bistek
In the Philippines, we love the taste of sour, and bistek is the ultimate celebration of that flavor profile. It’s beef marinated in calamansi juice (or citrus juice, if you can’t find calamansi), soy sauce, chopped garlic, thick sliced onions, and bay leaves, and it really packs a punch.
Go to Recipe
Credit: Kitchn
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