Hi! How’s everyone doing? It’s been raining here in Singapore recently and the weather’s perfect for just lounging in bed…or for eating Nilagang Baka for lunch in my balcony.
Here’s a picture of my balcony, by the way. Gardening has taken up so much of my time lately, that I don’t get the chance to do anything else like, say, baking or food photography. Sorry! But I do think the end results justify the effort that I have put in.
Nilagang Baka, or Boiled Beef Soup, is the perfect dish for cold and gloomy days. The hot soup plus rice combination is unbeatable in warming up those lazy bones that often plague us during rainy days.
Nilagang Baka gets its name from the way the dish is cooked. Nilaga means boiled in Filipino. Quite literally, the various ingredients are boiled for a certain period of time. It doesn’t get easier than that, does it?
The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is the one that I’m most familiar with. I cook this at least once every time I go back home. Most of the stews and soups in my province are cooked by sautéing the onion and the garlic first. While I grew up doing the exact same thing, I felt that I should modify the recipe a little bit in order to remain faithful to its name. For this recipe, I skipped the sautéing and jumped right in to the boiling/pressure cooking of the beef.
One of my friends accused me of being partial to beef tails and I must admit that I am. It’s the best, the cheapest and the most relatively-easy-to-get alternative to bone-in beef cuts. If you live in the Philippines or somewhere close to a butcher shop, you can get some beef shanks or some similar cut of beef for your nilaga. I strongly advise against using beef cubes though; the extended boiling takes a toil on the texture of meat. Plus, you would really want the bones in for a fuller-flavored soup.
There are a number of ways to cook Nilagang Baka. The standard ingredients, aside from the beef, are potatoes and cabbages. I went the whole nine yards with this recipe – saba (cardava), camote (sweet potatoes), and baguio beans (french beans) are added as well.
On a side note, for those who aren’t familiar with saba, please don’t confuse it with your regular bananas. Saba is the thicker and fleshier cousin of the normal banana. It’s commonly used in Filipino recipes such as turon, banana cue, and pochero. If you can’t find saba where you are, you can just skip it. Just don’t ever use regular bananas because they’ll turn goopy from all the boiling.
Nilagang Baka has a distinct flavor that comes not only from the saltiness of the fish sauce, but also from the sweetness of the bananas and the sweet potatoes. I confess that my tastebuds tend to lean towards the stronger side, so I always use a fair amount of fish sauce. I also add a little bit of sugar to further enhance the subtle sweetness of the soup and to complement the salty flavor of the meat.
Serve Nilagang Baka with your favorite dipping sauce (fish sauce with a slice of calamansi for me) and rice. Have a happy lunch!
Looking for something hot and hearty to warm up those cold and gloomy days? Look no further than this delicious Filipino boiled beef soup.
1 kg beef shanks, or similar cut of beef
8 cups water
1 red onion (big), about 300 grams, sliced
1 tsp peppercorn
300 grams potatoes, quartered
300 grams camote (sweet potatoes), cut in 1 inch thick pieces
350 grams saba (cardava), cut in 1 inch pieces diagonally
75 grams baguio beans (french beans)
1 small head of cabbage, quartered
1 bunch of pechay (bok choy)
fish sauce and sugar, to taste
- In a large casserole, briefly boil the beef in 3 cups of water until scum floats to the surface. Remove from heat and rinse beef thoroughly under running water.
- Return the beef to the casserole and add the rest of the water to cover the beef. Add onions, peppercorn, and 2 tbsps of fish sauce. Boil the beef in medium heat for 1-2 hours or until the beef is tender.
- Once the beef is tender, add the potatoes and sweet potatoes and boil for 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the saba and simmer for a minute.
- Add fish sauce and sugar, to taste.
- Turn off the heat. Add french beans, cabbage, and pechay (bok choy).
- Serve hot.
- I prefer my soup to be on the salty side; I ended up adding around 6 tbsps of fish sauce. You can reduce the amount of fish sauce added to the soup though, especially if the fish sauce that you are using is quite salty.
- Some people don’t add sugar to the soup and instead prefers to rely on the sweetness of the saba and the sweet potatoes. Sugar is optional but in my opinion it compliments the fish sauce quite well.
- Most Filipinos use fish sauce and some calamansi (lime) as dipping sauce for the beef.
Craving for more Filipino food?
- The Softest Ever Pandesal (Filipino Bread Rolls)
- Delicious Filipino Spanish Bread
- Filipino Chicken Macaroni Salad