What Is Bistek? A Beginner’s Guide to This Classic Filipino Dish

  • The word bistek is derived from the Spanish word ‘’bistec,’’ which is translated as ‘’beefsteak.’’
  • Bistek tagalog is a traditional dish in the Philippines and has a long history and cultural significance for the Filipinos.
  • Bistek Tagalog has a positive impact on your health, as it’s rich in nutrients and proteins.
  • Bistek is mostly referred to as bistek tagalog, or karne frita, and its ingredients vary within different regions.
  • The beef steak is easy to prepare, and you’ll need only five key ingredients.

Filipino cuisine never ceases to amaze us. If you’re a beef lover, you absolutely must try bistek tagalog – a unique Filipino dish made of thinly sliced beef sirloin or tenderloin that is served well done. 

The bistek recipe is believed to have originated from Southern Tagalog in the Philippines and derived from the Spanish bistec encebollado. It’s truly astonishing how a dish so easy to make can be so delicious!

Bistek tagalog is one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines. If you’re already drooling over the flavorful bistek, read on to learn how to cook bistek tagalog, what its cultural significance is, and how this meal can benefit one’s health.

Origin and History of Bistek

The one and only bistek recipe originates from the Philippines and is served as a main dish or dinner. The original recipe has more or less remained the same through time, but it has still undergone some changes.

The term bistek is derived from the Spanish loan word ‘’bistec,’’ which means ‘’beefsteak.’’ It is also referred to as bistek tagalog. The Philipinos usually prepare this meal during festivals and other special occasions.

Ingredients and Cooking Methods of Bistek

ingredients of bistek

There are only five beef steak ingredients involved in this delicious recipe:

  • Calamansi juice. Can be bought in almost every Filipino store or online.
  • Fresh garlic. Garlic powder can be used as a substitute.
  • Soy sauce. Both Filipino and regular soy sauce can be used.
  • Onion. Use just enough to add flavor to the meat steak.
  • Sirloin steak. The beef steak should be sliced thin.

These are the traditional ingredients, but different regions tend to make small changes in the beef steak recipe. Some use brown instead of red onions, while some use lemon or lime instead of calamansi juice. 

Popular Variations of Bistek

The Filipino beef steak is mostly referred to as bistek tagalog. However, in the Western Visayas, it’s also known as karne frita, or carne frita, which is a Spanish word and literally means ‘’fried meat.’’ It’s the same dish more or less, but carne frita is always cooked with sugar. 

There are some modern versions of the traditional bistek tagalog beef. For example, bistek na baboy is a pork bistek because it’s made of pork slices. The same goes for chicken bistek, where chicken slices are used instead of beef.

Popular regional variations of the beef steak tagalog include:

bistec ranchero

  • Bistec ranchero in Mexico
  • Bistec a lo pobre in Peru, best served with fried egg, fries, and fried plantain
  • Bistec a caballo in Colombia, coated with fried egg and hogao.

Nutritional Benefits of Bistek

Regarding beef steak calories, this Filipino dish contains 315 per serving but is also relatively rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains 945 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, and 1 g dietary fiber. Bistek tagalog is also a great source of proteins, which amount to 30 g per serving, and as we all know – protein is good for your bones, lowers your blood pressure, and helps maintain weight loss.

In a nutshell, panlasang pinoy recipes are almost always healthy and delicious. For example, bulalo, besides being a delicious meat steak treat, contains a mix of corn and leafy greens, which have a positive health effect.

How to Make Bistek

If you’re ready to learn how to cook beef steak, proceed with the below-listed steps:

  • Clean the sirloin and remove the thin membrane. Slice the meat into thin strips and pound each slice with a meat tenderizer.
  • Mix soy sauce, calamansi juice and baking soda, and marinate the sliced beef steak for 35 minutes.
  • Make the bistek sauce out of soy sauce, garlic, calamansi juice, and black pepper.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and cook the beef until it’s well-browned on both sides.
  • Cook the sauce briefly and add the meat back again.
  • Add the onion rings last and cook until the meat is tender.
  • Serve it on a plate and add extra sauce if you want to.

In order to cook your beef bistek to perfection, try the velveting technique, which consists of adding baking soda and cornstarch to your marinade. Try to use as little sugar as possible and as much water as possible.

Serving Suggestions and Pairings for Bistek

bistek served with rice and onions on top

The beef steak is best served hot with fresh onion rings as a topping and steamed brown or white rice on the side. Cooked carrots, greens, or a side salad are also a nice addition. We recommend monggo guisado, ginisang sayote, or pinakbet as side dishes.

Jerry’s Pares and Bulalohan and Papa Prito are one of the best restaurants that serve bistek in the Philippines. However, you can try a panlasang pinoy recipe in almost every state – Max’s Restaurant in North America would be a good start.


The Filipinos have a long history of preparing bistek tagalog, so it’s no wonder it’s one of their favorite meals. Not only is it a flavor-rich dish, but it also contains the right amount of nutrients you need throughout the day. What’s even more awesome is that it’s quite easy to prepare.

If you haven’t already tried bistek, you should definitely put it on your list of foods to try at least once. You can make the bistek tagalog recipe yourself or visit a restaurant – either way, you’re up for a delicious journey!

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